The Cruel Collective Punishment of Sanctions

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Jason Rezaian describes what renewed U.S. sanctions will do to the Iranian people:

Although sanctions won’t target food and medicine directly, Iran will be cut from the international financial system, so imports for many items will be affected, causing delays in delivery. People needing certain lifesaving drugs will have to cross borders to buy their medicine – if they can afford it – on the black market. People who might otherwise live normal lives with the aid of their medications will needlessly die.

The Trump administration is engaging in collective punishment of all Iranians in a vain attempt to force changes in regime behavior and ultimately to force a change in the regime itself. It isn’t likely to work, but it is an unacceptable tactic to use in any case. Strangling a country’s economy in a bid to pressure its government to do what Washington wants is cruel, aggressive, and excessive. Punishing the population for the wrongdoing of a government that they don’t control is both wrong and foolish. It isn’t going to weaken the regime in any case, and it will inflict needless suffering on people that have done nothing to us.

The main thing sanctions will achieve is to confirm in the minds of millions of Iranians that our government wishes them ill and seeks to wreck their country. That can’t be good for the future of U.S.-Iranian relations or US interests. To add insult to injury, the sanctions are being reimposed on Iran after the US reneged on its end of the JCPOA while Iran remains in compliance with the terms of the deal. Iranians are being made to suffer because of an arbitrary and destructive decision that Trump made to violate an agreement that Iran has honored for years, and then the same government that is doing this to them has the gall to tell them that the US is on their side.

Sanctions are frequently an ineffective tool, but worse than that they are cruel and indiscriminate in the damage they do to the people in the targeted country. Perhaps worst of all, they are unjust in that they punish the innocent for the deeds of the guilty while enabling the people responsible for regime policies to grow wealthier and more powerful than they already were. Punishing the entire population through sanctions confirms the administration’s utter contempt for the Iranian people.

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at The American Conservative, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and is a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Dallas. Follow him on Twitter. This article is reprinted from The American Conservative with permission.

Read more