Assuaging the the guilt-pangs of Iran sanctions through spin
by Cyrus Safdari
In light of reports that the US-imposed sanctions on Iran have started to negatively affect innocent people including the sick and elderly who are deprived of needed imported medicine, I thought it would be a good time to remind everyone of the various spins which were employed by the the Bush and Clinton administration to dismiss or downplay similar concerns about the suffering of Iraqis under the previous sanctions imposed on that country during the build-up to the invasion of Iraq (and especially regarding the 500,000 excess child deaths that resulted directly and knowingly by the US targetting of water treatment facilities for bombardment, and continued sanctions which caused such widespread death and hunger there that several Western officials at the UN resigned in protest.)
These were the spins I identified and wrote about previously:
1- That the deaths were over-estimated and the UNICEF/FAO/Garfield studies (showing massive child mortality in Iraq due to sanctions) were cooked up (denial)
2- That the number of deaths were in fact “worth it” (justification)
3- That no one “meant” or “intended” to kill children; they were just collateral damage (excuse)
4- That it was in fact the UN that imposed the sanctions and not the US (misdirection)
5- Saddam is responsible for the deaths since it was Saddam who provoked the sanctions (evasion)
Just like in Iraq, these same sort of spins will be used — and havealready been used — to justify the disproportionate effect of the sanctions on innocent people in Iran. For example we’ve already heard Obama administration officials claim that the suffering of innocent people in Iran is merely due to Iran’s refusal to “abide by its international obligations” (nevermind that Iran is in no way “obligated” to do as the US demands on its nuclear program, and furthermore the sanctions cannot and will not be lifted even if Iran totally gives up her nuclear program because the real aim is imposing regime change, just as Iraq’s giving up of her WMDs didn’t end the sanctions on that country either — a fact that some people are only now starting to realizeis the actual game-plan.) This sort of “blame the victim” spin was also used when the US shot down Iran Air 655 during the Iran-Iraq war: we were told that the whole incident was the fault of Iran for not accepting a cease-fire with Iraq, not because the US decided to use its Navy in the conflict to the benefit of Iraq.
In theory, of course, Iran can supposedly import these needed drugs because the Office of Foreign Asset Control in the US (which regulates the sanctions regime) has issued general licenses that exclude medicines from the sanctions regime. In reality, other regulations by the same organization prevent any financial transactions with Iran (including transactions to pay for these drugs) so the net effect is that Iran can’t actually pay for any of the medicines. This point was made by Clif Burns of ExportLawBlog.com when he used another example of personal remittances of money sent to Iran which are similarly possible in theory yet impossible in practice due to the ban on financial transactions with Iran:
Frankly, I don’t know whether this conundrum is the unintended result of sloppy drafting by OFAC or is an intentional ambiguity designed to discourage activities that OFAC doesn’t believe it could, as a political matter, prohibit outright.