Iran: The Art of War and Sanctions

It has impacted every part of our lives. The aim? Ask the United States what the aim is… To put Iran under pressure of course. It’s our government’s fault, they don’t want us to be comfortable. They’re not just after regime change anymore. The toughest sanctions ever imposed by us on a country. Sanctions have had a negative impact. The poor get poorer. Sanctions are intended to cause pain. No, I don’t think there is going to be war, Iran is too powerful. Iran has Iranian allies across the region. The Americans want to pressure the people with sanctions until they rise up against the regime. A historic nuclear deal with Iran reached in the middle of the night. The handshakes and hugs that marked this first agreement now an image for the history books. If you want to know how Iranians feel about this deal look no further than the streets of Tehran. Hopes… Dashed. I am announcing today that the United States will withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Deal. The Iran deal didn’t even make it to three years, before Donald Trump withdrew in May 2018 and the U.S. slapped new sanctions on Iran. Inside the country inflation skyrocketed and sent the economy spiralling. This is the sanctions, there’s no work, life is difficult. I work for one month and it’s gone in three days. The investments are down and no jobs for the people. It has impacted every part of our lives. After Trump’s sanctions, the economy shrank by 5 per cent and inflation trebled. By September 2019 it had reached almost 43 per cent. These sanctions target the international banking system, essentially cutting off Iran’s ability to pay for anything. Professor Mohammad Marandi of the University of Tehran says this strategy isn’t new. Trump did not cause this situation. Trump is crude and he’s politically incorrect, so he shows American policy for what it is, otherwise, this policy was pursued by previous administrations. I am formally announcing my intention to cut off all trade and investment with Iran. My view is that we need to strengthen our sanction regime. I’m pleased to sign into law the toughest sanctions against Iran ever passed by the United States Congress. The toughest sanctions ever imposed by us on a country. Iran was first sanctioned in 1951, after its Prime Minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh nationalised Iran’s oil from the company known today as British Petroleum, or BP. Britain and the U.S. reacted by staging a coup against Mosaddegh, regaining a stronghold on Iran’s oil and putting in place the Shah. There were no sanctions during his reign. But Iranians wanted to be independent of foreign interference and have control of their own resources, they overthrew the Shah in 1979. The reaction? The U.S. sanctioned Iran again. They supported terrorist organisations like the MKO. Alongside Europe, they provided Saddam Hussein with material to build chemical weapons. He used them against Iranians in an eight-year war. Over 350 large-scale gas attacks, killing thousands. The suffering that the United States and the Europeans have imposed on Iranians, through supporting Saddam Hussein, by providing him with chemical weapons, I survived two chemical attacks, by helping these terrorist organisations, these are things that we’ve been experiencing for decades now. For Iranians like Hossein Kanani Moghadam these memories are not forgotten, they are the pictures hanging on his wall. My brother was a chemical engineer, he was martyred in the [Iran-Iraq] war, he was 20-years-old when he was killed. Even then, we were sanctioned, they would not even give us barbed wire in the war. This is a picture of me and Martyr Rajai when I was a member of the IRGC supreme council. Martyr Rajai was the first Prime Minister of Iran [after the revolution] then he became President of Iran and he was assassinated by the munafiqeen [the MKO]. It’s the same MKO that John Bolton supports today, taking part in their conferences. They are terrorists. They even tried to assassinate me twice, leaving me injured in my arm and stomach. The stage we are at now is a blockade of Iran’s economy. And what the Americans are after is to block Iran’s imports and exports and they’re not just after regime change anymore, they also want to change the people of Iran. Sanctions closed an already defensive Iran from the world. But over the decades much of its young population started looking outwards. And many started asking questions. Is Iran being too defensive? Should it change its policies? The Iranian government generally plays an opposing tune and doesn’t tell other people about its plans and this makes other people and governments feel endangered. They are trying to prevent them but Iran’s government stands very firmly by its plans. But their plans are right at the end of the day. If they explained things, if they talked a bit more easily with other countries… They’d be less suspicious. Yeah. Just say it’s got nothing to do with war, we’re not killers. There are many people who when we say we are from Iran, they don’t even know where Iran is. They think it’s an Arab country, that you can’t have a life here at all, but that’s not what it’s like. That’s just what’s been ingrained in people’s minds in other countries. I think it’s because of the past that Iran has gone through as a country and because of the current situation as well. It thinks that the others could attack us at any second, but we shouldn’t keep our walls so high. A growing number of Iranians wanted walls to come down, at a time, a U.S. President – Donald Trump Ð wanted to build walls. Iranian pollster, Dr. Ebrahim Mohseni has been monitoring the effect that has had on public opinion. The formative experience of the previous generation was the Iran-Iraq war, an experience where the entire world unites against Iran. There was a sense back in 2013 that perhaps that’s an old policy, if we be more flexible when it comes to things that Western countries do not like, they would be more accommodating as well. The dashed expectations that have resulted out of the JCPOA experiment, the sense that no, it’s not what we do that is going to change their policy it’s something else. So, what do people think that “something else” is? We asked Iranians from across Tehran. The aim? Ask the United States what the aim is… To put Iran under pressure of course. Well, the main target is the people. To put pressure on the people. When Mr. Trump says he is looking out for the people’s interest, he is lying. All I can say is their goal is to destroy Iran. The pressure is on the working class and the poor. But it’s those same people who are under pressure who tolerate it, they won’t cave to bullying. That pressure is widespread and is squeezing away Iran’s middle class. Over half of Iranian families are now living under the poverty line. But ultimately, sanctions have hit the poorest, hardest. The government does subsidise the bare necessities like bread, but even the price of that has gone up. In the last year, the price of potatoes have increased by up to 360 per cent. Rice by 75 per cent, chicken by almost 66. For the poorest that could be the difference between being able to eat or not. And it’s particularly visible outside of the cosmopolitan and bustling capital. This is the old neighbourhood of Isfahan, I was born and raised here. Sanctions have had a negative impact. The poor get poorer, they fall behind and that’s the thing that occupies my mind and upsets me a lot. The aim of the sanctions is political pressure on people so that they give up on the system, but I don’t think these sanctions will have a real impact on people’s decisions. Ultimately people have accepted this system and if it were to change it would definitely have a harmful impact on the country. Sanctions are intended to cause pain, they simply are, that’s a reality. What you’re trying to do is reach a Goldilocks moment in which you impose just enough pressure, just enough pain such that you overcome the resolve of your target. That’s Richard Nephew, the man who was in charge of U.S. sanctions on Iran for years, he’s even written a book about it Ð the Art of Sanctions. The art of the sanctions is to create suffering, that’s without a doubt, and that creates long-term disgust and dislike and animosity towards those countries, whether it’s the Americans which promote them and push for them, or the Europeans which obey them, they all are seen as guilty, in the eyes of many Iranians and many people across the region, and people outside the region because this is not something that is unique to Iran, you see it in Latin America, in Northern Africa. That’s actually a sign of a sick mind and a sick political order, that is Eurocentric and that sees itself as supreme. The reality is that [America] is using its political power like this. Everything has become political, even human rights are under the influence of politics and people in the world are really unhappy. Gizing is 49-years-old, she is a social worker, a mother of two teens and is battling cancer. I found out in April that I had breast cancer and because of my family history, my doctor decided to remove my breasts, which I did and now, I have eight sessions of chemotherapy and some other medicine to take. We were all shocked by my sister’s illness because two of our other sisters died of the same illness, we were really upset. And because it was during the sanctions, we were really worried that we wouldn’t be able to get medicine. So we were all upset. It 100 per cent has had an impact. I needed to implant a port into my veins and we suffered a lot because there simply wasn’t one and the exact reason was the sanctions, they said it wasn’t available. The American government says “no we haven’t sanctioned medicine”. OK, well let’s say if a pharmaceutical company wants to import medicine, how are they supposed to pay? Transferring money is very difficult now, they’ve totally blocked it. They are the ones who should explain what the aim of the sanctions are. What is it? They want Iran to be the way that the Americans want it to be. So it’s just a form of American bullying. America says it doesn’t want to harm the Iranian people and that medicine isn’t sanctioned. But by blocking financial transactions, you cut off the lifeline, to be able to pay for them. Pharmacist Sayed Hesam Sharifnia believes the U.S. knows exactly what they’re doing. They know exactly what they are doing, and in my view, they are purposefully moving towards a direction to turn [the blocking of] financial transactions into a more serious problem. Iran has responded by focusing exclusively on domestic production. We produce 70 per cent of our medicine and import 30 per cent. Under current regulations, if a medicine is produced domestically, the original brand is not allowed to be imported. A problem that sometimes occurs for the patient is that they are looking for the original brand of a medicine, which isn’t imported into the country anymore. For example, this medicine Bisoprolol used to be imported but for the last two years, it’s been produced domestically. Patients might still come looking for the original foreign brand and think there is a shortage, but the Iranian version is readily available. Iran is a young country. About 60 per cent are under 30. A quarter of them don’t have a job. They’ve lived their whole lives under sanctions. In Isfahan, twins Maedeh and Faezeh say that’s impacted how they view their future. Though they both have two very different visions of what that looks like. My plan for the future is to migrate, preferably to California because of my field. One of my dreams is to go and get a job at Google. No. I want to stay and be in Iran and see the progress of Iran myself. To become so self-sufficient that I can create positive change in these uncertain times. My goals and dreams are outside Iran, my sister’s goals and dreams are inside Iran, but I don’t want us to be apart forever. From dreams of Silicon Valley outside the country to dreams of building one inside. Sanctions may have severed Iran’s links, but technology has reconnected them. The Internet has changed the way the world Ð and Iran Ð works. Tech start-ups are booming here, and they’re constantly finding new ways around decades-old sanctions. Techrasa is a start-up media, we publish reports on different sectors of Iranian starts-ups. We are actually trying to bridge Iran to the outside world. Everything is going online right now in Iran. We have a third of the Internet users in the Middle East; 66 million. There are 180 million users in total in the Middle East and one-third of it belongs to Iran. This building has 13 floors, there are around 50 different start-ups, so we can check some of them out. This is Karmana, another accelerator. Because of the U.S. sanctions, many services that start-ups right now need to work have been banned by the U.S. and we can’t use the foreign services. So the thing is, the start-ups in Iran replicate the solution Iranian version ones to actually be able to help the start-ups. Entrepreneurs would always find new solutions to adapt. Come on guys! You ready guys? Ahmad is the founder of Diaalog, these guys are helping stock exchange to get them a chatbot. Our growth has been very fast because we were forced to stand on our own two feet and develop everything ourselves and we have managed to build many of these structures. I think that with the positive things happening in this field, we are becoming more motivated and our growth will be even quicker. To stand on its own two feet, Iranians expect their government to get results at home as well as abroad. In the minds of Iranian people, Iran is resourceful enough that if Iranian policymakers would adopt good policies, prevent corruption, focus more inward as opposed to looking toward the favours of the East or the West, that Iran would have a better chance of moving through this period of hardship towards a period that is a lot more promising. But many Iranians don’t think policymakers are adopting good strategies. There is widespread dissatisfaction with how the country and the economy is being managed. It’s our government’s fault, they don’t want us to be comfortable, they just keep us busy so we don’t figure out what’s happening to us. They haven’t paid us for three months now. At the Iranian Parliament, the Majlis, the state of the economy is daily business. Iranians have taken to the street over the mismanagement of the country’s economy. In response, the Majlis has impeached the country’s finance minister as they try and clean-up house. Firstly, sanctions have not been without impact, but at most they’ve had a 20 per cent effect. 80 per cent has been domestic effects, that if we can strengthen ourselves domestically within this 80 per cent; Our administrative and bureaucratic systems have problems, they need to be reformed. The way we draft our budgets has problems and needs to be reformed. Sometimes there is corruption among some officials or civil servants, this needs to be reformed. We should thank Trump that his ignorance was the cause for us to enter an economic war and identify our weak points. The same way we came out as a military superpower after the eight-year sacred defence [Iran-Iraq war], be sure that we will come out of these sanctions as an economic superpower, God willing. Iran feels like it needs to overcome sanctions the same way it overcame war. So when Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran deal and ratcheted up the rhetoric, defences went up quickly and tensions have been spiralling ever since. Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone today, where it happened is in dispute. President Trump saying today the American people will soon find out if the United States is going to war with Iran. But the United States is prepared, we’re locked and loaded and weÕre ready to defend our interests and our allies in the region. From war words to battle cries. The big question now is are sanctions just a stepping stone to military intervention? No, I don’t think there is going to be war, Iran is too powerful. Iran has prepared very sophisticated defence facilities alongside the Persian Gulf, on the islands, underground, well protected and Iranian allies across the region; in Iraq, in Syria, Lebanon and in Yemen, none of them would tolerate a war against Iran because they all know that this would be directed at them too, so the Americans can’t win such a war. Iranians don’t think there is going to be a war. 70 per cent don’t even think it’s a possibility. At the Tehran Bazaar, historically the economic heart of Tehran, war seems to be the last thing on people’s minds. Shopping is still the serious business here. And for Bazaari’s like Hussein-Ali Moghadam, standing up to the sanctions is worth risking his bottom line. The aim of the sanctions is our surrender, which thank God hasn’t happened. Wherever these superpowers have gone they have destroyed, but we are still standing up to them. They tolerate the sanctions because they are grateful that they haven’t gone under the thumb of these superpowers. The Americans want to pressure the people with the sanctions until they rise up against the regime, but that hasn’t happened and it won’t happen. People may be dissatisfied and criticise the current circumstances, but they don’t want the Americans to come or to roll out the red carpet for them because they know that in the last 40 years the biggest animosity against our country has been from the Americans. You shouldn’t speak to the Iranian people with the language of force, our history has shown that. However much you sanction, Iran is our homeland, no problem, we will tolerate it. I don’t know for how many times we have to go under sanctions, for I don’t know some countries, for example, the U.S. to find out that they can’t put us under. And perhaps that’s what the art of sanctions keeps miscalculating. It’s applied the pain, but it hasn’t understood the Iranian people. Because with all their different circumstances and their different points of views. With their different criticisms and their protests, they’ve refused to roll out the red carpet. They don’t want the American solution. They still want to find their own. And for that, they’ve been punished with more pain. Gizing is getting ready for her next round of chemotherapy. Since her last session, the U.S. has sanctioned Iran again. Politics in the world today is filled more with madness than with measure and I think that madness is very clear through Trump’s actions. In dictatorial systems, crazy political actions become the norm, you can see them a lot and right now that is exactly what America is portraying. A government that claims it is democratic but doesn’t believe in the distribution of power. It just wants all the power of the world for itself so that it can do whatever it wants.

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