Since 1979, the United States has maintained a trade restriction on the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). Since the revelation of IRI’s nuclear ambitions in 2002, at the initiation of the group of six, the United Nations Security Council imposed three rounds of economic sanctions on Iran. None of these measures convinced the regime to turn its back to its nuclear ambitions.
The third set of sanctions, harsher than previous ones, and imposed by the European Union's recent freezing of the assets of Iran's Bank Melli and imposing travel prohibitions on some of IRI’s senior officials, scientists and high-ranking military officers.
“Bank Melli Iran, which is fully owned by the state, is the country's largest commercial bank, with about 45,000 employees and 3,000 branches worldwide, and total assets of €38 billion ($59 billion). Its branches in Russia and in the United Arab Emirates continue to process transactions, including, as is rumoured, those originating in Europe”, reported the influential German news magazine Der Spiegel in a recent article.
The pressure exerted by the US had a little effect in recent years. “In 2007, German exports to Iran declined from €3.35 billion to $3.23 billion”, the magazine said. The IRI has already turned to trading partners in Russia and China and other Asian countries, which have no qualms about taking over IRI’s nuclear ambitions. “According to data supplied by Germany's Federal Office for Foreign Trade, China has almost doubled its trade volume with Iran since 2005, from $10 billion (€6.5 billion) to $18.5 billion (€11.9 billion)”, quoted by Der Spiegel.
According to the same article, Pakistan and India have also expanded their economic relations with the regime, and trade with the Arab nations across the Persian Gulf has much increased. Furthermore, many countries in Asia and Europe, but also the United States, have managed to get around the sanctions by working with middlemen and companies close to the IRI, mostly in the Persian Gulf region. It seems that such sanctions do not put an end to business dealings with the IRI and the new sanctions do not seem to convince the IRI to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
On the other hand, the EU may look for compromises with the IRI to maintain their bilateral economic relations. We know that despite constant IRI’s catastrophic records of Human Rights since the Iranian Islamic revolution, the EU’s share of Iran’s total imports is over 40%. EU trade with Iran has even expanded since Iran’s secret nuclear programme was exposed. IRI’s sponsored terrorism and nuclear programme have been ignored a long time by the EU while partly helped by Russia.
The fact is that Mullahs continue to ignore sanctions with little consequence for the regime even though Iran’s economy is stagnating. Consumer prices are raising rapidly, unemployment approaches 30 percent and Ahmadinejad has not redistributed oil profits to the poor as promised, but the regime continues to invest in terrorism, nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
Following the first US war against Iraq in 1991, the United Nations imposed sanctions on that country for 13 years, and yet Saddam Hussein refused to give up. The sanctions did not significantly weaken the Iraqi dictator, but brought about more poverty, medical deficiency and infantile mortality for the population. Such sanctions can have the same impacts on Iranian civil population. Sanctions on the basic needs like foods or medicines very likely favour an oasis for the State Mafia to grow, as it was the case during the Iran-Iraq War.
Recently, 100 Israeli planes flew 1,400 kilometres out over the Mediterranean as part of a military manoeuvre. In the flight, they covered exactly the same distance they would have to cover in an attack on the Iranian uranium enrichment plant in Natanz. The IRI reposted with its test-fired missiles whose range puts Israel within reach. As result, an eventual air strike on Iran will considerably damage the Iranian national infrastructures and will slaughter many innocents, while the regime very likely manages to survive.
The IRI has dispersed its nuclear plants and facilities all over the country and among the civil population to use civil people as human shields against any air strike. Therefore, any so-called surgical air strike launched by Israel or the US will certainly kill thousands of innocent people. Both military intervention and blind economic sanctions will damage people and the national infrastructures rather than the regime’s power structure. The IRI does not care to pay a high price for its refusal to stop enriching uranium to appease the ongoing tension and will continue to claim its “reactors are purely for civilian purposes.”
But what is the alternative? Will international sanctions produce any desired effects? Is there any chance to solve the dilemma with the defiant IRI? Can the group of six produce any result? Is a military intervention the final solution? The answer to all of them remains negative. As long as the UN do not directly punish the IRI, -- not people who already suffer from this totalitarian regime --, a real solution is not available.
However, the UN can consider various regimes of sanctions on the IRI:
- Highlight IRI’s human right violations in the last 29 years, especially the genocide of political prisoners in the summer of 1988 with the same principles that the Nuremburg Court applied to Nazi genocide criminals.
–The UN can demand the UN members to freeze all assets of IRI’s seniors and their related institutions, foundations, Islamic centres, economic organisations, media, and lobby groups in the world.
-The UN should rule out any military or economic sanctions on Iran. Blind economic sanctions or an eventual military attack on Iran serve mainly the agenda of IRI’s hardliners. In this perspective, apart from military goods and industry and eventually oil, trade of other goods with Iran must not be suspended. In fact, all of these above regimes sanctions produce significant psychological effect to encourage and justify fair struggles of the oppressed people of Iran against the totalitarian IRI.
The UN may also regard oil embargo on the IRI:
- Oil embargo, instead of military or economic sanctions, can be an effective alternative. It prevents the regime to reinforce all its repressive forces and organs to further repress Iranian people and jeopardise the international peace.
-IRI’s export of crude oil or import of refined oil from India pass through the Strait of Hormuz, where a UN mandated marine force can stop the transport.
According to Iran’s Oil Ministry, the country needs to import up to 15 million litres of gasoline a day for domestic consume. Before rationing was imposed, the domestic consume was estimated 75 million litres a day of gasoline, of which about 36 million was imported. In the case of only gasoline embargo, Iran’s consummation can be hardly affected.
IRI’s revenue of oil is 70%. A great proportion of this national revenue is not invested to improve the cause of people. Oil in the hands of Mullahs fuels corruption and repression rather than boosts development for people. In short, oil income does not play an important role to people’s daily life; in fact, both rate of inflation and unemployment increases while line of poverty permanently sinks.
By contrast, Islamic foundations and institutions mushrooms quickly with oil income, oil is mainly a high resource of financing the repressive hundreds of thousands of pasdars, Basijis, masked hooligans, bearded or veiled militias, thugs of “Morality Police … Plus IRI’s financing measures for international Islamist terrorism.
Although, Iran is the world’s fourth-largest crude oil exporter, it lacks refining capacity to meet all domestic demand for gasoline. Backward Mullahs are not to refine oil therefore rationing was introduced in an effort to curb consumption and cut the rising cost of importing fuel. India imports Iranian crude oil and after refining it exports it to Iran.
The idea of oil embargo, as a weapon of struggle against the tyranny, can be regarded effective. Without oil income, the regime can collapse. The strike of Iranian National Oil Company was a main factor of Shah's collapse; it can also topple the IRI.
Sales of oil for arms in the hands of Basijis, Pasdars, or Hezbollahs in Lebanon to safeguard the savage IRI only serve the agenda of Mullahs. Mullahs do not care about the extraction and abuse of Iranian national wealth. They raise the production of oil to fulfil their agenda. Through oil embargo, unexploited oil will remain an intact source for a free Iran after the fall of the totalitarian IRI. It will help the country to repair the damage done by this regime and will guarantee prosperity and development of the national economy after the Mullahs’ regime.
We know that interconnected global economies vitally depend on oil. The industrialised world is the main consumers of fuel. Despite the deep economical interconnections, they are not always in harmony. The EU because of its intensive trade with Iran is rather opposed to such an oil embargo on the IRI. The EU remained cooperative with Iran after the Iranian revolution.
IRI’s sponsored terrorism, and nuclear programme, did not seem to play an important role for the EU. EU’s share of Iran’s total imports has now increased to 45%. EU trade with Iran has even expanded since Iran’s secret nuclear programme was exposed. The EU imports 40% Iran’s oil—the rest goes to Japan, China and other Asian countries.
he Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), to which Iran belongs, can raise output; oil embargo on the IRI can not be a factor that the whole world economy goes into recession.
ullahs know the risk of an oil embargo; they try to abuse the relatively expensive oil price, to export as much as they can, even below the market price. They have ordered last year oil tankers from South Korea to increase their transport fleet and consequently oil transportation capacity to 11 million tons by 2010.
About only 20% of oil revenues go directly to the pocket of the people in the form of payment for subsidies or employees of the governmental organisations (about 3 million). Oil is the lowest income of these people under the smashing inflation.
The mullahs are the real brokers of oil. Oil is a mafia wealth of corrupt Rafsanjani-clan and his likes. They can fuel any propaganda machine to abate the tension felt at home and mask any real cause for which people suffer from. So, oil income goes on the account of repressive organs, propaganda machine, and terrorist organisations in the world.
The IRI is precarious, unpopular mullahs hold onto power by all means of repression. If the oil revenue were suddenly to drop, the repressive regime would lose its steady income and would have serious problems to invest its repressive machine to repress domestic population and finance international terrorism.
If oil sanction, as a new weapon of sanction, is imposed as a result of IRI’s nuclear row with the West, and it can render the IRI more vulnerable, it is also at the same time a lack of resource in the hand of the Mullahs to finance their repressive organs and a fair occasion for Iranian people to challenge the plague of the IRI, some Iranian analysts believe.
The IRI cannot be reduced to a simple dictatorial system. It is an extremely brutal totalitarian system, emulated from the archaic models of a clan society of Arab pagans. IRI’s criminal records go beyond of any standard of today’s imagination, i.e., with one Khomeini’s fatwa, several thousands political prisoners, some of them minors, were killed in summer 88.
Since the inception of the regime, hundreds of thousands of Iranians have been jailed, tortured, strained to repent, or summarily executed. Millions of Iranians have been forced to leave the country looking asylum in the West.
The brutal face of Mullahs’ regime is camouflaged by the state run censured media. Furthermore, in the light of a Gobbles-like propaganda system of totalitarian regimes, a crowd of sold intellectuals, paid journalists and Islamic media-networks do the job to create an international apathy towards the depth of Iranian people’s plight.
The best reason to impose an oil embargo on the regime is the lack of any other realistic alternative from the UN. Even as the collateral damage from such trade embargo can be immense, including harming those countries that impose it, the other choice is economic sanctions, if not war. ENDS SANCTIONS FOR IRAN
Editor’s note: Mr. Jahanshah Rashidian is an Iranian activist living in Germany. He is published regularly by some foreign-based Iranian media, including Iran Press Service, which reproduces his articles in texto.