Milvi Saarna – Staff Writer
The government of Iran has denied allegations that it is developing nuclear weapons, insisting that its atomic power stations are solely for peaceful energy purposes. Yet many in the West believe that Iran’s intent might be different.
A report released by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in November 2011 suggested that Iran may have been working to transform its nuclear fuel into weapons, as it has refused to engage in real discussions and full inspections, often dismissing accusations as being fictional or out of context, according to the New YorkTimes.
The government clearly does not want to cooperate with the IAEA, nor the Security Council. The U.S. and the European Union are proposing another round of sanctions against Iran in the hopes that Iran will come back to diplomatic discussions and stop its uranium enrichment program.
With the clock ticking and no agreement on the future of Iran’s nuclear program, on January 30 President Barack Obama announced “unprecedented” measures of sanctioning on Iran. These sanctions, an addition to last November’s sanctions aimed at reducing oil exports to curb international economic dealings, “require U.S. institutions to block all property and interests of the Iranian government, the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) and all Iranian financial institutions within U.S. jurisdiction,” reported Reuters.
Another sanctions bill that might pass in the Senate would require the White House to push the Belgianbased Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) to expel CBI and other Iranian financial institutions that transfer money between banks internationally, or otherwise face sanctions. The bill would also extend sanctions to parent companies that conduct business with Iran through their foreign subsidiaries. These measures could have a disastrous impact on Iran’s trade, economy, and ability to purchase goods.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamadinejad labeled the U.S. and EU embargo on oil imports as “the heaviest economic onslaught on a nation in history,” as 80% of Iran’s exports revenue stems from crude sales. Ayatollah Khamenei, the Second Supreme Leader of Iran, has admitted that the sanctions have been “painful and crippling” according to The Daily Star, yet also commented that the sanctions would benefit Iran by making it more self-reliant.
In a country where 45 percent of its rice is imported, sudden ‘self-reliance’ does not seem practical. Suppliers from Thailand, Vietnam, and Pakistan have already ceased to provide rice. Additionally, Iranian buyers have defaulted on credit payments of 200,000 tons of rice to India, indicating that sanctions are pulling the Iranian hand. This staple currently costs approximately $5 per kg, while the average Iranian earns about $350 a month.
If sudden sanctions affect the everyday Iranian in a drastic manner, the West may secretly hope that the Iranian public will retaliate against their government. U.S. officials have in the past stated that they are targeting the regime and sparing every day citizens, yet the newest sanctions seem to indicate otherwise.
In retaliation, Iranian Members of Parliament (MPs) pledged to hasten the passage of a bill immediately banning Iranian oil exports to certain EU states as well as barring imports of any goods from the EU. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned that new sanctions on Iran, the fifth largest supplier of oil, could skyrocket the price of oil 20-30%.
Iran also threatened to attack Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf and close off the Strait of Hormuz, reported the New York Times.
Is it a lose-lose situation? In the eyes of the Iranian government, it is probably in a tough, but bearable spot until they gain nuclear technology. What helps is that Russia and China do not want to apply further sanctions, and maybe that is all Iran needs to survive while it develops its nuclear weapons program.
Sanctions are worth a shot to stop Iran, but what happens when they don’t work? Perhaps more nuclear scientists will be killed, or Israel will attack a Iraqi nuclear facility like it did in 1981. If sanctions fail, threatened parties will publicly or discretely try to prevent Iran from gaining access to nuclear weaponry. However, they may expect full retaliation by the Iranian government. After all, Khamenei once said, “If they want to threaten us and use force and violence against us, they should not doubt that Iranian officials will use all they have in their power to deal a blow to those who assault them.”