X

News & Publications

A colleague forwarded these photos of Chinese-made vehicles that appear to be designed for crowd-control, possibly to be used against protesters in Iran.


I think it’s interesting how a lot of the anger at the government’s repression against the protesters is now being directed toward the Chinese for supporting the regime.  China has long maintained an amoral foreign policy (that’s amoral, not necessarily immoral) which ignores issues such as human rights and instead takes a coldly rational view of national self-interest.  (ie Iran has oil.  China needs oil.  Period.)
Here lies a fundamental problem with America’s approach to Iran over the past two decades, in which we have relied almost entirely on using sanctions as a strategy unto themselves.  Cutting off trade with Iran might raise the cost of doing business for the government a little bit, but it also crowds out any possibility for a positive US influence.  This is what George W. Bush meant when he said we have “sanctioned ourselves out of influence with Iran.” Sanctions are a tactic; not a strategy.
When the US has open trade relations with another country, and that country’s government behaves in a way that we find disagreeable, the US can exercise powerful leverage by threatening to withhold trade until the troubling behavior stops.  But when we have no relations with a country — as is the case with Iran — we don’t have the same amount of leverage, and are reduced to casting aspersions from across the Atlantic.
Now, I am not arguing that we lift the embargo on Iran and start trading with Tehran.  I am simply pointing out that two decades of broad US sanctions have contributed to the situation we’re in right now, in which Iran is driven directly into the arms of the Chinese, leaving all of us to huff and puff without a thing to do.

Back to top