Sanctions On Iran: Solution or Problem?
ALERT: US Sanctions on Iran are crippling Tehran’s economy. But Iran doesn’t care.
The United States of America has imposed sanctions on Iran amidst growing tension between the US and Iran. This is another wave of sanctions that forms part of a series of sanctions slapped against since the time of the Iranian revolution in 1979. The present set of sanctions has come amidst threats of war between the United States of America and Iran that commenced since May 2019 when Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear Agreement and Iran vowed to enrich its uranium stockpile. The resultant effects of the sanctions are having rippling effects not only upon Iran or the Gulf region; but the whole world has been forced to pause its breadth in the face of a likely war and economic cataclysm that could become manifest if the present hostilities between the US and Iran are not checked.
The Origin of US and Iran Tensions
US sanctions on Iran did not start yesterday
Prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution that occurred in Iran, Iran under the monarchy of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi was a strong ally of the United States of America. However, demonstrations against the rule of the Shah started in October 1977 and the Shah had to leave for Paris on exile and Ayotallah Khomeini became the Supreme Leader of Iran’s Islamic Republic in December 1979 (Wikipedia, 2019a).
In protest against the exile given to the Shah by the United States, a group of students later held 52 people as hostages for a total of 444 days inside the American Embassy in Tehran. In retaliation the US froze $12 billion worth of Iranian assets in bank deposits and real estate (Pike, 2019).
The Islamic Revolution in Iran had called for the abandonment of capitalism and American influence in the world order. Since the Islamic revolution, relationship between the US and Iran has been on sour tone. A botched mission to rescue the 52 hostage further exacerbated the situation. The US severed diplomatic relations with Iran on April 1980. For over 30 years, that relationship did not improve. In 1983, an attack on the American embassy in Beirut, Lebanon killed 17 Americans. Later, in the same year, two truck bombs exploded in Beirut and killed 241 US peace keepers. The US government blamed Hezbollah, a terrorist group that is funded by Iran. In 1995, the Clinton Administration placed a total embargo on Iran. This blacklisting was followed-up by the Bush Administration when it grouped Iran, North Korea and Iraq as the “Axis of Evil”.
The Iran-Iraq war took place between 1980 and 1988 (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2019). Iraq was the initial attacker but it was subsequently repelled by Iran. Iran strove to invade Iraq in retaliation but its effort were not successful. In the war, Iraq was supported by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other neighboring Arab states whilst Iran obtained support from Syria and Libya. The United States tacitly gave its support to Iraq for obvious reasons. Iran and Iraq then resorted to sporadic air and missile attacks and in the stalemate that developed, the US and other western nations had to send warships into the Persian Gulf in order to facilitate the flow of oil out of the region to the rest of the world. In 1988, the two warring nations were forced to accept UN- brokered cease fire that brought the war to an end.
America’s sanctions on Iran are further complicating Iran-Israel tensions.
Another perspective to the US-Iran quagmire is the Iran- Israel relationship. From the emergence of the Nation of Israel in 1948 to the Iranian revolution, Iran and Israel had maintained close relations (Wikipedia, 2018). Israel had then considered Iran as a non-Arab ally. The two countries had exchanged embassies, there were military and project links between the two countries; the Israel National carrier even maintained a flight between Tel-Aviv and Tehran. In the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini proclaimed Israel; as the “enemy of Islam” and the “The little Satan”, after “The Great Satan”, the United States of America. Iran severed all relations with Israel and adopted a strong anti-Zionist stance. Iran leaders began making anti-Israel rhetoric and threatened to wipe-out the nation of Israel. From Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to Mohammad Khatami, Israel was called a “cancerous tumor” and an “illegal state” and a “parasite.
During the reign of Mahmud Ahmedinijiad, a series of conflicts between Iran and Israel soured the relationship between the two countries. Iran supported actively Hezbollah fighters during the 2006 Lebanon war. Iran also gave support to the Hamas group in Palestine during the Gaza war. Israel had undertaken assassinations of top Iranian scientists in a bid to frustrate Iran nuclear efforts.
In 2010, both the US and Israel were jointly accused of developing infectious computer viruses; ostensibly to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. In 2011, Israel damaged Iran’s nuclear facility at Isfahan. Subsequently, Hezbollah fired two missiles into northern Israel and Israel retaliated by firing four artillery shells. The two countries continued to launch covert attacks targeting key personalities and civilians of either country.
2015 Iran Nuclear Deal
In July, a deal called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed between Iran and six countries including the United States, France, UK, China, Russia and Germany after some two years of intensive discussions. The agreement had the main goals of restricting Iran to develop nuclear capability only for its energy requirements without having the ability to develop nuclear weapons. In exchange for such restrictions, the deal provided for the lifting of sanctions against Iran (Haltiwanger, 2019). Iran also agreed to allow access for inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in order to oversee the implementation of the agreement. The IAEA proclaimed that Iran was complying to the terms of the agreement and in January 2016, the international sanctions against Iran were lifted.
On the 8th of May, 2018, President Donald trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and enforced sanctions against Iran to force Iran withdraw its support for militant groups lie Hezbollah, Hamas and the Houthis.. Trump also called for halting of nuclear ballistic missiles development which Iran is vigorously pursuing. The US also reiterated that it will sanction who ever deals with Iran or purchases Iran’s oil.
Effects of Sanctions
The main victim; Iran, has had unpleasant consequences from the sanctions. The immediate fall-out is a decline in Iranian oil-based exports along the years. The result has been a progressive loss in revenue and a huge budget deficit. A lot of oil companies have had to withdraw from Iran. The nuclear program has been hampered by the inability of Iran to procure essential materials and equipment. The social and human effects have been quite severe; as some of the sanctioned products included basic goods needed for the Iranian civil population. The value of the Iranian currency has been tremendously weakened and inflation is at hyper-level.
The global repercussions have been all-reaching (Wikipedia, 2019b). China has arisen to become Iran’s largest trading partner as a result of the sanctions. Iran presently depends on China and Russia for military assistance. Since Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, Iraq has created plans to export its oil through Syria.
Rhetoric intensified between the US and Iran after an attack by the Houthis on Saudi Arabia’s oil plants that led to the loss of half the output of Saudi oil. The Houthis are fighting Saudi Arabia in Yemen and Saudi Arabia is a strong ally of the US. The attacks caused the price of oil to jump by some 20%.
According to Pike (2019), a series of events have marked intensification of the quarrel between the US and Iran since the attacks on Saudi oil plants. The US deployed a carrier strike group and a bomber task force. Iran has been blamed for attacking two oil tankers in the gulf of Oman. The US has sent additional troops to Saudi Arabia. Both Iran and the US have claimed to have shot down each other’s drone. Iran seized a United Kingdom’s oil tanker. Iran also arrested some 17 people it had claimed were spying for the US. It had even passed death sentences on some of them.
It is reasonable to postulate that most of the tension has arisen as a result of the sanctions. There is a grave risk of war if tensions continue to rise at the present scale. Iran is a quite a force to be reckoned with militarily; a war with Iran might not be easy for the United States. The threat to the existence of Israel is real. Most of the world’s supply of oil comes from the Persian Gulf; a war will definitely engender energy crisis in countries such as India and China that depend to a large extent on supplies from that region. Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and other nations in the Persian Gulf stand a chance of serious internal crisis should conflict engulf the region. Consequently, it is quite logical to conclude that the continuance of the sanctions is detrimental to the global economy and poses a substantial threat to the peace and stability of the Persian Gulf.