Over the weekend, Iranian officers and morality police raided and shut down 87 cafes in Tehran for not following Islamic values. As Reuters reports:
Coffee shop culture has flourished in Iran in recent years, offering wireless Internet, snacks, hot drinks, and a place to hang out for Iranian youth in a country where there are no bars or Western chain restaurants or cafes.
But that trend has been criticized by conservative Iranians who consider it a cultural imposition from the West and incompatible with Islamic values. The government periodically cracks down on behavior it considers un-Islamic, including mingling between the sexes outside of marriage.
The shameful actions by Iranian authorities further illuminates how the goals of the state’s hardliners are actually aided by broad sanction policies designed to isolate Iranians from the world outside of Iran.
Just last Friday, Milad Jokar wrote a post on how Iranians manage to circumvent the sanctions and enjoy Western products in spite of U.S. efforts to block them–buying iPhones, DVDs, Nikes, and even eating at restaurants that are clones of Starbucks and McDonalds.
And Iranian hardliners, as demonstrated by these most recent raids, don’t like it one bit.
But the fact is, we have our own hardliners in the U.S. who also don’t want Iranians getting Western goods. How will we make Iranians angry enough to take up arms against the regime if they still have access to Happy Meals?
So we impose broad sanctions designed to punish ordinary Iranians. And hardliners in Iran are more than happy to have the U.S. Congress and President on their side as they work to isolate and repress ordinary Iranians.
The absurd notion that collective punishment can produce a democratic uprising is an absurd, simplistic notion that has no historical precedent for success. While punitive measures may provide emotional satisfaction to some frustrated policymakers and activists looking in from the outside, even they should be able to understand how sanctions that punish and isolate young Iranians put us on wrong side of the equation when it comes to the Iranian state versus the Iranian people.