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By Behrooz Ghamari Tabrizi on February 3, 2021
Photograph Source: Steve Bowbrick – CC BY 2.0
There is an expression in Persian that says when an idiot throws a stone into a well, hundreds of wise people can’t recover it. Now this is the story of Donald Trump’s idiotic decision in May 2018 to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that the United States had signed with China, France, Germany, the UK, and Russia. The agreement was also endorsed by the UN Security Council Resolution 2231.
There is another group of actors who see in Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear agreement an opportunity to pressure the Islamic Republic on its violations of human rights. A variety of Iranian opposition groups and expatriates argue that the Unites States must include respect for human rights and civil liberties as a precondition for lifting the sanctions and normalized relations. It is a hard sell for those who are genuinely concerned with the question of human rights to ask the American government to be the agent of that change. So long as our government supports the region’s most oppressive regimes, it is hard to imagine that it has any moral authority or political capital to spend on issues of human rights in Iran. It is deeply cynical to suggest the U.S. government as an advocate of human rights and civil liberties in Iran while it continues to support regimes in whose prisons and occupied lands millions of people are languishing in despair.
There are innumerable problems in Iran, political repression, economic despair, social discontent, gender-ethnic-religious discriminations, deep economic corruption and crony capitalism. But the United States of America cannot and should not be the agent of change in Iran. I do not know how many times in history that simple fact has been proven. There is in Iran a vibrant society that engages these problems at so many different levels. These engagements have brought about significant changes in the country and its political establishment and continue to do so. The best way for Americans to support these transformations is to stop the sanctions and stay clear of the Iranian domestic affairs.
American sanctions and policies of different administrations toward Iran have not produced results that will benefit Iranian people. In Iran:
+ Sanctions have deepened the securitization of society
+ Sanctions have weakened civil society
+ Sanctions have created informal economies that lack transparency
+ Sanctions have increased corruption and has entrenched crony capitalism
+ Sanctions have given rise to bellicose politics
+ Sanctions have deepened pauperization of the masses
+ Sanctions have inflicted unwarranted pain on ordinary people
More than thirty years ago, Henry Precht, then the head of Iran desk at the State Department, offered an astute observation that unfortunately still holds true. “The American consensus on Iran is persistent and clear,” he wrote in 1988. “The leaders in Tehran are crazy, blindly ideological, resistant to international law and opinion, and virtually impossible to deal with. And the bad news only gets worse from this wild bunch.” He argued that what motivates the Islamic Republic is “political and economic independence at home, not dominion abroad.” That is why I believe that the solution to the crisis in Iran-U.S. relations was already devised forty years ago in Algiers. In the accord that was signed in 1981 the U.S. pledged that “it is now and will be the policy of the United States not to intervene, directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in Iran’s internal affairs.” Successive American governments have tried and failed to come to terms with the sovereignty of the Iranian government. A pledge of non-interference and demonstrating that pledge in practice will be the most remarkable gift that the Biden administration can offer Iranian people.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs