January 10, 2014

American Journalists on Sanctions Impact Inside Iran

Washington, DC – Two prominent American journalists who recently returned from Iran are cautioning that new sanctions at this time would undermine U.S. interests and hurt the people of Iran. Washington Post journalist David Ignatius warned that imposing “much more aggressive sanctions that follow breakdown of negotiations will empower the people we would least like to see on top.” He added, “More sanctions will, in part, have the effect of enfranchising, just as they did in Iraq, the most corrupt people, who control levers of illegal business.” 

Robin Wright, editor of Iran Primer, spoke alongside Ignatius at the US Institute of Peace yesterday at an event cosponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Center to discuss the importance of understanding the effect of sanctions on Iran’s economy and society and how this would impact U.S. interests. Wright argued, “Congress would make an epic miscalculation to assume new sanctions would add pressure on Iran to make a deal.” Director of the Wilson Center, Jane Harman also added that the new Senate sanctions bill introduced by Senator Menendez “is disturbing” and suggested Congress give both sides rooms to let the deal work.  

According to Wright, the Iranian economy is not crippled in the sense many assume but rather, appears to be thriving when on the streets of Tehran, saying “the grand bazaars [are] popping, the isles are packed… there is a technology mall that is just for computers and there are so many apple stores that have the Apple brand on it where you can get an iPad, iPhone, iPod of the latest variety in any color.” Ignatius insisted Iranians are a resourceful people and have found ways to work around sanctions. 

However, Wright said sanctions are indirectly affecting the most vulnerable Iranians’  access humanitarian materials and medical supplies, despite both being exempt from sanctions. “I went to a hospice care facility where one guy was literally dying, he may have died since I came back, and they were showing me the inhalers that he needed and are American made and that he couldn’t get access to because no pharmacy could get anybody to finance the ability to buy these things,” Wright said. 

Both Wright and Ignatius said that direct diplomacy through negotiations would have a far better effect on both ordinary Iranians and US interests than implementing new sanctions. Ignatius concluded that, despite how hard it will be to get a final deal, “it is very much in Iran and America’s interests.”  




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