M.J. Rosenberg writes: News on the Iran front is getting more and more complicated. I am not referring to the situation at Iran’s nuclear facilities but to the one here in Washington, where Congress, deep into election-year fundraising and thinking about the March AIPAC policy conference, is crafting yet another sanctions bill. There is no reason to go into the details. But suffice it to say, this new set of sanctions, like the rest, will primarily hurt ordinary Iranians, not the government. As one Iranian citizen, writing under a pseudonym, described the situation this week in the New York Daily News:
These days, ordinary Iranians like my mother are becoming increasingly aware of a new economic reality in their lives. Sanctions already in place have plunged the country’s economy into a crisis; more robust sanctions that will be enacted come spring on our financial system and oil trade will cause even more pain for an already-suffering populace.
Isn’t life in Iran difficult enough under the regime of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei? Why punish ordinary people more?
Did we punish the Poles or the Bulgarians for living under communism? Did we punish the people of the Soviet Union because their government had a nuclear arsenal primed to destroy us? No. In fact, we gave the people of those countries food. As President Richard Nixon (like President Ronald Reagan later) liked to remind us, our adversary was the leadership of the Soviet Union, not the average citizens in the different Soviet republics.
But that is not how we have been approaching the Iran. Not by a long shot.
In A Single Roll of the Dice, a comprehensive new book about U.S.-Iran relations since President Obama came to office, Iran expert Trita Parsi examines the effect that the purely punitive approach (i.e., sanctions) can have on changing the Iranian government’s behavior.
Specifically, Parsi points out that “sanctions have become an alternative to policy” rather than an instrument of policy. He explains that “if diplomacy is pursued again” it must be “for the sake of resolving the conflict, not for the sake of creating an impetus for more sanctions.”
Abandoning a sole reliance on sanctions is Parsi’s first of six recommendations for establishing a diplomacy track with Iran that will succeed. [Continue reading…]