How the US Congress plans on supporting the Iranian Revolutionary Guard

Buying American in Tehran

American sanctions against this country are not only obviously ineffective, … they often have unintended consequences that hurt American interests.

President George W. Bush’s 2005 sanctions on financial assets, meant to crack down on rogue banks facilitating Iran’s nuclear program, had two unforeseen side effects. Freezing the financial assets of these banks increased the price of credit, making it more costly for honest financial firms like ours to operate. It also increased the value of Western goods like TV satellite dishes, cigarettes and alcohol, which the Revolutionary Guards sell on the black market, netting an estimated $12 billion a year.

Today, five members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany are to meet to consider cutting off Iran’s supply of imported gasoline and diesel — which accounts for 40 percent of the country’s total consumption — if the regime does not agree to restart negotiations over its nuclear weapons program by the end of this month. Sadly, though, the only people such sanctions would hurt would be the poor, who would face higher prices for food and bus fare.

Sanctions against foreign investment firms hurt ordinary Iranians, too, because those businesses pour money into companies that make medicine and build roads and housing, providing jobs for the millions of young Iranians who graduate each year with limited job prospects.

Further isolating Iran economically may in fact play right into the hands of Revolutionary Guard hard-liners. Tougher sanctions would rally this fratricidal conservative bloc against an old common enemy and help the Guards’ many businesses, which include smuggling goods through secret landing spots on the coast. [continued…]

Iran says it’s ready to reopen nuclear talks

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator said Tuesday that the country was prepared to resume talks with world powers over its contentious nuclear technology program and that it had prepared a package of proposals for discussions.

Saeed Jalili, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and its point person on the nuclear issue, did not disclose details of the package but said that it would be an updated version of one submitted last year. That package was criticized by Western countries for failing to address key points of disagreement.

Still, Jalili’s comments were the most substantive official remarks on the nuclear issue since the contentious June 12 election and could give the Obama administration, which has offered to have direct talks with Iran on its nuclear program, an opportunity to try to engage Tehran before resorting to a fresh round of sanctions. [continued…]

Purge of Iranian universities is feared

As Iran’s universities prepare to start classes this month, there is growing concern within the academic community that the government will purge political and social science departments of professors and curriculums deemed “un-Islamic,” according to academics and political analysts inside and outside Iran.

The fears have been stoked by speeches by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as well as by confessions of political prisoners, that suggest that the study of secular topics and ideas has made universities incubators for the political unrest unleashed after the disputed presidential election in June.

Ayatollah Khamenei said this week that the study of social sciences “promotes doubts and uncertainty.” He urged “ardent defenders of Islam” to review the human sciences that are taught in Iran’s universities and that he said “promote secularism,” according to Iranian news services. [continued…]

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