The continuing rhetoric and relentless warmongering from western diplomats continues, amidst the barrage of talk and media propaganda of an imminent “crisis” comes one critical element for the civilian population of Iran. US led sanctions have undoubtedly led to the downfall of the Iranian economy, and as recent history has proven it will be the civilian population that bears the brunt. Western diplomats predict Iran’s foreign exchange reserves will run dry in six months to a year, making it impossible for the country to import or export goods and run its public services. Today it was reported in the Guardian that the head of the charity Foundation for Special Diseases has warned of a serious shortage of vital medicines, for diseases such as haemophilia, multiple sclerosis and cancer. Earlier this month Ban Ki Moon the UN secretary-general had warned in a report that “The sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran have had significant effects on the general population, including an escalation in inflation, a rise in commodities and energy costs, an increase in the rate of unemployment and a shortage of necessary items, including medicine,”. The EU, fresh from winning the Nobel Peace Prize last week don’t appear to be listening with British Foreign Secretary William Hague announcing further escalation to the crippling sanctions.
The aim of the increasingly harsh sanctions are supposedly to curb the Iranian regimes attempts to enrich uranium for the purpose of nuclear warheads. The IAEA in its reports and findings from its inspections at nuclear facilities in Iran have not found any strong evidence to suggest the regime is trying to develop nuclear warheads, the vast majority of any circumstantial evidence has been provided by the US and vehemently denied by Iran. It must also be noted that Iran is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which its nuclear armed US ally neighbour Israel is not, whilst openly admitting they have hundreds of nuclear warheads, again with the tacit approval of the US administration.
Both CIA and Mossad officials have stated their belief that Iran is yet to make a decision on building a nuclear weapon and have considerably scaled back enrichment since 2003, yet three of the four non signatory nuclear armed states, India, Pakistan and Israel have been unimpeded in developing nuclear arms with the financial and logistical backing of the US.
An example of the human suffering sanctions can cause is not hard to find, the statistics on the sanctions imposed on Iraq prior to the US led Iraq war bear grim reading. In a report by Christian Aid on the Iraq sanctions in 1998 read –“The policy of sanctions has also been used to pursue political goals — for example, the removal of the Iraqi regime — beyond the overt scope of Resolution 687, which contained no prescriptions regarding Iraq’s form of government or the conduct of domestic policy. The Iraqi population’s economic and social rights have been seriously infringed by the impact of a prolonged embargo. In an authoritarian state which continued to hold most of the levers of control, much of the burden caused by the embargo fell on the civilian population.” the report went on to state-“The longer-term damage to the fabric of society has yet to be assessed but economic disruption has already led to heightened levels of crime, corruption and violence.” During the period of sanctions from 1991 to 1998 it is estimated by UNICEF that up to a million people died during the period as a direct result of the sanctions, half of them being children.
Estimates of deaths due to sanctions
Estimates of excess deaths during sanctions vary depending on the source. The estimates vary due to differences in methodologies, and specific time-frames covered. A short listing of estimates follows:
- Unicef: 500,000 children (including sanctions, collateral effects of war). “[As of 1999] [c]hildren under 5 years of age are dying at more than twice the rate they were ten years ago.”
- Former U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq Denis Halliday: “Two hundred thirty-nine thousand children 5 years old and under” as of 1998.
- “probably … 170,000 children”, Project on Defense Alternatives, “The Wages of War”, 20. October 2003
- 350,000 excess deaths among children “even using conservative estimates”, Slate Explainer, “Are 1 Million Children Dying in Iraq?”, 9. October 2001.
- Economist Michael Spagat: “very likely to be [less than] than half a million children” because estimation efforts are unable to isolate the effects of sanctions alone due to the lack of “anything resembling a controlled experiment”, and “one potential explanation” for the statistics showing a decline in child mortality was that “they were not real, but rather results of manipulations by the Iraqi government.”
- “Richard Garfield, a Columbia University nursing professor … cited the figures 345,000-530,000 for the entire 1990-2002 period” for sanctions-related excess deaths.
- Zaidi, S. and Fawzi, M. C. S., (1995) The Lancet British medical journal: 567,000 children. A co-author (Zaidi) did a follow-up study in 1996, finding “much lower … mortality rates … for unknown reasons.”
- Iraq expert Amatzia Baram compared the country’s population growth rates over several censuses and found there to be almost no difference in the rate of Iraq’s population growth between 1977 and 1987 (35.8 percent), and between 1987 and 1997 (35.1 percent), suggesting a much lower total.
The effect of sanctions on civilian populations is quite obviously catastrophic, and many believe this is the ultimate outcome in the hope that civilian suffering will foresee a regime change. It has been proven to have the opposite effect, whatever money remains in a sanctioned state will still be held by the regime, the public will just see less of it, as is being seen now in Iran. The sanctions have also increased anti-US sentiment among the civilian population who feel they are the ones being punished for the regimes alleged crimes. The outcome will be a much weaker Iran, which is no doubt the aim whatever the consequence to civilian life. A weaker Iran will principally be an easier target for the US/Israel to attack in the future, and then the civilian population will have even less of a chance of survival, once again civilian life is used as a pawn in the race to control natural resources in the middle east.