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5 Aug, 2012

U.S. House Passage of Iran Sanctions Bill “Trumps Einstein’s Definition of Insanity”


Washington, DC (1 August 2012) USA*Engage Media Release – The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) and USA*Engage today released the following statement in response to the House of Representatives’ approval of a bill to impose additional U.S. unilateral sanctions against Iran.

“Congress, impelled by election year politics, has voted overwhelmingly to impose additional economic sanctions on Iran. This is unfortunate, but not surprising,” said USA*Engage Director Richard Sawaya. “Today’s action ignores Iran’s experience of three embargoes since the 1950s and, in effect, attempts to cut Iran off from the global financial system and restrict the country’s exports of crude oil through the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Right Act of 2012.”

“The House has taken this action in the name of diplomacy, but it would severely constrain the Administration’s space for negotiations. In a moment of frankness, its foremost supporters candidly admit sanctions will not alter Iranian nuclear decision-making, but instead offer the justification that sanctions will so harm ordinary Iranians that they will overthrow the ruling regime – a hypothesis that does not stand up to the record of history,” said Sawaya.

“At least, the commitment to continuing duly licensed humanitarian trade in agricultural products, food, medicine and medical products with Iran is cited in the legislation – though its viability is threatened by the financial sanctions,” Sawaya concluded.

“Apparently, the old saw – if one’s only tool is a hammer, everything becomes a nail – trumps Einstein’s definition of insanity when it comes to U.S. relations with Iran,” said NFTC President Bill Reinsch. “To the degree that U.S. sanctions on Iran ‘work,’ they will effectively expand the control of the Revolutionary Guards over Iran’s economy, provide the regime with fodder to fuel anti-Americanism in a population until now distinguished in the region by pro-American sentiments, and a firm floor over global oil prices, nullifying the production ‘good news’ from North America and elsewhere.”

“Moreover, the hidden effects on U.S. multinationals – none of whom operate in Iran – makes the business of doing business in a global economy that much more difficult in terms of avoiding contractual obligations with entities that may be caught in the sanctions net. Ever-expanding economic sanctions enshrined as U.S. law hardly seem calculated to promote world economic activity,” said Reinsch.

Enough is Enough on Iran Sanctions

By Richard Sawaya

The writer is a director of USA Engage (www.usaengage.org) a coalition of small and large businesses, agriculture groups and trade associations working to seek alternatives to the proliferation of unilateral US foreign policy sanctions and to promote the benefits of US engagement abroad.

01/08/2012 – The politics driving Congress to pass yet another Iran sanctions bill defy Einstein’s definition of insanity.

Previously, sanctions advocates have asserted the existing sanctions are intended to compel Iran’s rulers to stand down their nuclear programme. That has not happened. Now, the same voices declare that the existing sanctions must be strengthened to exclude Iran entirely from the global financial system and to mount a comprehensive embargo on the sale and movement of Iranian crude oil exports.

This, not to achieve a negotiated success vis a vis the nuclear issue, but to cripple Iran’s economy, so that the Iranian people under such hardship will overthrow their rulers. That will not happen either.

What will probably happen can be found in the historical record of the crippling sanctions that were placed upon Iraq – enormous human suffering and the increased despotic authority of the ruling regime.

A proverbial observer from another planet informed about the history and geography of the region might well conclude the following: As the century-long dissolution of the Ottoman Empire plays out under the misnomer of the Arab Spring, Egypt, Turkey and Iran merit the strategic attention of the United States.

Iran’s 1979 “revolution,” its ensuing eight year war with Iraq (abetted by the United States), and the uniquely special relationship that exists between the United States and Israel – “a symbiosis” as one Republican senator puts it – have resulted in mutual alienation and political warmongering between the United States and Iran, radically unlike the case of US relations with Egypt and Turkey.

At such a pass, the United States should try something else: direct negotiations on the host of issues in the region in which both Iran and the United States have legitimate national interests and a commitment to re-establish diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level.

Of course, the domestic political space for such actionable analysis does not exist in this election year. That said, it would be prudential for Congress to conclude that “enough is enough;” allow the Administration to continue its efforts in the P5 plus 1 negotiations with Iran over the nuclear file and lower the rhetorical temperature.

As a note of bona fides, the Administration could substantiate its mantra of “our quarrel is not with the Iranian people” by decisively clarifying its presently muddied regulatory practice regarding duly licensed humanitarian trade in agricultural commodities, food, medicine and medical devices by US persons with Iran – as the latest Iran sanctions legislation awaiting final passage endorses.