A YNet article, “Israeli officials: Starve Iranians to stop nukes” is reopening the debate about what is the goal of our broad sanctions regime against Iran, with some saying such sentiments reek of collective punishment.
But really, the cat has been out of the bag on this one for a long time. Broad, indiscriminate, “crippling” sanctions on Iran have always been designed to inflict pain on ordinary Iranians. The leading supporters of crippling sanctions admitted years ago that collective punishment was exactly the point.
See the rationale for crippling sanctions as explained by Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), when he was asked in August 2010 why the Obama Administration was resisting his aggressive push for an oil embargo on Iran:
Q: The oil embargo or quarantine sounds like a very plausible alternative … why the opposition from the administration?
Kirk: Um, in a discussion I recently had with administrative officials they said we would feel worried that it would hurt the Iranian people… (laughs)
But it’s that actual pain that I think has to be imposed, in my view, a gasoline quarantine would immediately trigger anti-American demonstrations in downtown Tehran, organized by the regime.
But over time the regime fears large groups of people gathering because as you know a mob can turn very quickly.
When you hear that you can’t get enough gasoline that day, and you read in the state controlled paper that it’s Barack Obama’s fault, you’ll be mad at Barack Obama that week.
But as your factory closed down and as the refrigerator starts to run out, the naturally tendency of any people is turn to their own leader and say “fix this”.
I cannot feed a nuclear weapon to my family. It is more important to feed my family than eat nuclear weapons. And that’s the dilemma you want to put them in.
And don’t forget Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA), author of legislation aimed at crashing Iranian civilian planes, who explained:
“Critics [of the sanctions] argued that these measures will hurt the Iranian people. Quite frankly, we need to do just that.”
The irony here is that, particularly in Kirk’s case, the supporters of crippling sanctions all claim to be supporters of human rights in Iran. They just don’t support the right for Iranians to eat.
It is also interesting to note the two shining examples of broad sanctions we have seen over the last two decades: Iraq – where a ruthless dictator thrived while his people died under brutal sanctions, and ultimately was only toppled through trillion dollar U.S. military invasion and occupation; and North Korea – where a ruthless regime continues to stay fat, happy, and nuclear armed while its subjects starve to death.