By John Steppling
The question of sanctions is in the broadest sense an interesting and kind of huge topic. The United States has increasingly over the last 60 years I guess, 70 years, but certainly, over the last 30 some years, has used, employed sanctions as a kind of primary weapon against its "enemies" - the people that choose to define as enemies, anybody who is at all independent is going to be viewed as an enemy.
And the US has felt over this 30 years very comfortable enacting sanctions, and they've been pretty much satisfied with the results and they don't have to engage in boots on the ground as they say. They don't have to do a lot of things they would do in conventional warfare, or even in certain kinds of occupation.
It's the sort of 21st century soft power or something. But, the effectiveness of sanctions always rests on a sort of global community and a kind of compliance with things and this is what I always find at the heart of any of these questions about Iran, and its relationship to the US, to Israel, to China, Russia, the EU.
At what point did the "global community", did the UN and Security Council, did the World Economic Forum, did Davos, did the Trilateral Commission did all the... you know, at what point was it agreed upon that Iran was going to be the villain of the moment? They were going to be defined as a pariah state. They had done nothing to earn this definition, description, and yet that's what happened.
And so the entire JCPOA always seems very strange to me because nobody asks if you praise it back. Why this question was in play at all? So, you look at all the countries that the US has enacted sanctions against Cuba, you know, an embargo and sanctions on Cuba, Venezuela is on and on and on. The through-line to all of this can be seen as what is good for Western business interests for Western capital.
But the problem now is that some of these dynamics are changing. The US is no longer an economic superpower, it's economically in a rather precarious and vulnerable position, actually. But the sanctions began in 1945, they began with Woodrow Wilson, and as part of the League of Nations notion that he had as a way to enforce peace. I mean it was laughable from the beginning.
But anyway and there had been broad sanctions and there had been sort of, you know, very targeted sanctions that only focus on certain things there have been arms embargoes and all manner of sanctions. But, uh, they invariably hurt. The most vulnerable people in the country being sanctioned, that's one thing. They don't interrupt the ruling class anywhere. Global ruling class tends to, you know, fraternize with each other and doesn't much care about what the rest of the people in their country are doing or can't have or are suffering from or whatever it might be.
But back to the point that that the US power has eroded, to some degree, is true. And, yet you know the US also remains a military superpower, and it's part of why defense spending keeps getting ratcheted up further and further and further and further.
There's enough weapons to destroy the planet 1000 times over. There were enough weapons 70 years ago to destroy the planet 1000 times over. It's a big business, though. It's a very profitable business.
So, you look at the Iranian situation in relationship to, you know, China and Russia, and other trading partners in the Pacific Rim, even in Europe to some degree, though, the EU is being been bullied by the US.
So when [Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali] Khamenei says, you know “neutralize the sanctions.” I mean I think this is a reasonably wise thing to say. Because the people who are issuing sanctions are capricious. One doesn't know why they're doing well. I mean, one can guess why they're doing things, but the reasons are not logical and not rational.
So one has to look at ways to turn them into something other than entirely destructive and you have to work, with your friends in the world. Iran has to work with its partners in the world to find ways to do that neutralizing. They can't do it alone. You can't neutralize sanctions alone. I mean ever all of this is about international relationships.
I'm sort of jumping all around but I keep returning to the reason that Iran looms as such an irritant to the ideologues in Washington. Why all the neo-cons and the people from the Cato Institute and the Brookings Institute and you know all of these think tanks in a way, everybody hates Iran? And part of it is the absolute independence they have they have shown, and incredible resiliency and they've been targeted openly acknowledged as being targeted by Israel, which is the same as being targeted by the United States for sort of mythic crimes, nobody ever specifically comes up with any evidence of anything Iran did.
It's actually pretty funny at a certain point, and it’s like a win-win Westerner or Israeli apologists talk about the Palestinians. You always want to ask what do you expect these people to do? What do you expect people who are occupied in prison, shut down, or sanctioned? How do you expect that country to behave?
That's the issue with sanctions. On one level, does the United States, do people like Mike Pompeo and Joe Biden, all of these people expect Iran to roll over and piddle on themselves like a little puppy or something and say, oh gosh I hope you like us now. I mean it's an absurdity, but the US is paternalistic. They treat everybody as inferior. They condescend to everybody, and they are completely unaware of the effect this has.
But things are shifting and their power, their economic power has eroded the effectiveness of their economic policies and threats. It is not nearly what it was even 10 or 15 years ago, I mean, since 2008 I guess we're in a strange situation, and I read a statistic this morning about the COVID lockdowns because this is a great depression in the US. Over 60% of small businesses in the United States are going to go under. Sixty percent of small businesses will die. That's a gutting of a nation.
What are the plans? Nobody seems to want to talk about this. And they're hurtling into this abyss, and we're going to see something very drastic happening in the United States this year and it may be people heard it off to FEMA camps or, who knows because of the homelessness and food insecurity, the desperation, and probably increasing medical problems, psychological problems. This is all. This bill is coming due for the US, and I don't think they have a plan for it.
So, whenever I see US politicians wagging their fingers and threatening nations like Iran, I think boy, this is something you very well may not be able to do much longer and the hypocrisy, of course, is stunning. So, yeah, I mean Iran, I think has earned global respect because of the dignity with which they have responded to all of these provocations, you know, the assassination of Soleimani, the nuclear scientist.
They've been remarkably dignified and I think that probably infuriates the United States even more. But, I think in the corridors of power in Washington, there is a sense that Iranian policy has not worked, is not working, has not worked, and probably as it stands, will not work. So, what they decided to do once Biden takes office will be interesting, I don't know, but it'll be interesting.
John Steppling is an American author and political commentator. He is based in Norway. He recorded this article for Press TV website.