June 6, 2011

A “stealth” Iraq rerun

This past Thursday, the Atlantic Council’s Iran Task Force released its newest briefing regarding sanctions on Iran, authored by Barbara Slavin.
Slavin writes:

Piling on yet more stringent and comprehensive penalties — seeking to embargo Iranian oil exports, for example — risks undermining the significant international cooperation the Obama administration have achieved without giving adequate time for the sanctions already imposed to work.

Unfortunately, these are the very measures that are now being proposed in Congress
The new bills being discussed in Congress would effectively impose an oil embargo on Iran and implement new restrictions to leave President Obama little room to work with allies in Europe and Asia.
Ali Gharib at Think Progress spoke with Slavin after the sanctions briefing and asked her about some of these proposals being discussed.  She explained:

What they want is a stealth embargo. And they want it to be slow and quiet so it doesn’t cause shocks to the market, but that’s what they want.
If it starts to look like a total embargo, they will lose support. It starts to look like Iraq.

That’s the very thing that makes me worried.  The humanitarian toll of sanctions against Iraq throughout the 90’s was disastrous.  We shouldn’t be seeking the same thing for Iran.
To that end, last week, thirteen organizations (including NIAC) sent a letter to Capitol Hill calling for Members of the House and Senate to oppose or demand significant changes to the proposed legislation.
NIAC is also leading a grassroots letter writing campaign to tell Congress to oppose the new sanctions.  The letter (which you can send to your elected officials here) states:

I am deeply concerned that Congress is intent on repeating the mistakes that dragged an isolated U.S. into war with Iraq, where an oil embargo and sanctions had already contributed to the deaths of half a million children while failing to change the Iraqi government’s behavior.

It’s a shame that so many policymakers apparently do not see the similarities.
But perhaps that’s because of the way the Iran threat is being sold.  As Seymour Hersh, whose recent New Yorker piece  revealed the continued lack of evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapon program, told Democracy Now last week, “you know, you could argue it’s 2003 all over again.  Remember WMD, mushroom clouds. There’s just no serious evidence inside that Iran is actually doing anything to make a nuclear weapon.”
We are all fully aware how that turned out.  And yet Congress seems intent to continue back down the same path.

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