A second interpretation of international sanctions

You may or may not have followed the developments about the Iran / nukes / USA story over the last year of so, thus for the purpose of this blog post my summary:

An agreement was reached that Iran stops or reverses some of his civilian nuclear industry activities (there's no evidence for ongoing military nuclear activities) and ongoing negotiations are meant to eventually resolve the conflict peacefully* within the next months.
The price paid for this progress? No new sanctions on Iran.

So basically what happened a while ago was what the existing sanctions were purportedly meant to achieve: Iran becoming cooperative and seeking a diplomatic solution, with the prospect that it doesn't turn into a nuclear power.

Yet something strange happened; some politicians who were very much proponents of sanctions (supposedly to coerce Iran) are now calling for more, even adding them into federal U.S. legislation efforts that otherwise aren't really about Iran at all (such as a veterans benefits bill). They're obviously trying to sabotage the negotiations process, even though sanctions were supposedly meant to coerce Iran into doing what it's actually doing now.

The majority interpretation appears to be that this is merely a symptom of the usually idiotic domestic two-party system politics between the two overtly hostile political parties in the United States: It's being assumed that the sabotage is meant to keep the president from scoring a foreign policy success by solving a chronic issue which the other party's president didn't solve.
I disagree, albeit I admit blaming idiotic politics is not implausible.

My interpretation is rather that the masquerade did end. 
The sanctions were never meant to coerce Iran into negotiations, at least not to some of their influential proponents. The sanctions were rather meant to foster a climate of hostility towards Iran, laying the groundwork for "bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran".

It was the same with the IAEA inspections in Iraq post-1996. The smarter Neocons probably understood that Iraq had been thoroughly disarmed in part by warfare and in part by the 1991-1996 disarmament campaign. The dumber ones like Wolfowitz likely didn't, but the smarter ones likely did (at least subconsciously). Ongoing inspections were not meant to disarm; they were meant to keep the 'problem' (which wasn't) alive and to maintain the image of Iraq as a hostile, threatening power. It was about fostering hostility, not about seeking a peaceful solution to an actual problem.

Only a few days ago there were calls for sanctions against the Ukraine (or its government). It didn't sound to me as if someone had thoroughly thought about what sanctions, how they could help - it rather sounded like an attempt to escalate the Western position in the domestic Ukrainian conflict towards open hostility towards the Ukrainian regime.

Maybe I'm right on this, maybe I'm not. Just keep it in mind when the next time someone is demanding sanctions against some country.  Is the person (and the represented institution) likely sincere in the quest for a peaceful solution? Are the proposed sanctions better suited to coerce others into a peaceful solution or better suited to foster hostility against a foreign government?


*: That's what the United States, UK and others are obliged to seek in case of a political conflict anyway; a civilian solution. The obligations stem from the Charter of the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty.


  1. Well, they did have to reverse SOME sanctions, specifically the ones that Obama himselfcould undo. But only untill the negotion period ended.

    I think the crazyies tring to put sanctions into other bills are driven by the fear their peers created, and anger at and the fact that Iran didn't say "we surrender, take our gold and women" but rather act like they have RIGHTS! The have after all not even surrendered in the way the bad guy does in their movies, and so they cannot recognice it as victory.

  2. It comes down to domestic politics and Beltway groupthink.

    Foreign policy thinking is in a very childish and primitive state in the United States. There are a few serious thinkers like Stephen Walt, but generally most within the Beltway establishment are either neoconservatives or liberal imperialists. The only appreciable difference between the two today is that liberal imperialists prefer to seek the support of Western Europe (mainly because American liberals idolize Western Europe) and international institutions, but they will act unilaterally anyway if foreign support is not forthcoming.

    The goal of sanctions on Iran is not necessarily to force a peaceful solution. The goal is to force Iran to completely abandon its atomic program. If it were politically feasible, the hawkish elements in the Beltway like Lindsey Graham and John McCain would start a war against Iran. It's not that they want war per se, only that their foreign policy goals are too ambitious to be achieved by peaceful means since Iran strongly values its sovereignty. Since war is not politically possible (the American people have war fatigue), sanctions are pursued instead. The Treasury Department arbitrarily imposes executive sanctions in order to placate the hawks in Congress.

    Bear in mind the enormous power of the Zionist lobby in the United States. To a significant degree our foreign policy is influenced by the Zionist lobby. It is no longer possible to get elected or appointed to high office in America without being pro-Israel. Our current Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hegel, had trouble being confirmed for his post by the Senate due to being neutral on Israel and remarking, "I am a Senator of the United States, not a Senator of Israel." This trouble occurred even though Hegel is a Republican and a decorated combat veteran of the Viet Nam War.

    The Ukraine issue is terrifying to me. The USA (as well as the UK and Russia) are bound by the Budapest Convention to respect Ukraine's frontiers and sovereignty. The America press is strongly Russophobic and has irresponsibly been fomenting hatred of Russia for several years now. The Democratic Party is beholden to the homosexual lobby, which is stidently Russophobic. I don't want to die for Sevastopol!

  3. Bomb Iran asap. Oil and geostrategy are the purpose, nukes the pretext, sanctions a tool.
    Syria has been fought to a standstill. Retreat from vulnerable positions in Iraq and Afghanistan is imminent. Toppling by an uprising against the client state gouvernments there is not yet in sight. It's a timeframe of a few years until 2020 that offers itself for the invasion of Iran and finally mopping up the whole Middle East.

    You should read "A song of ice and fire"/watch "Game of thrones". It nicely explains politics. Sven, you are too much of an Eddard Stark charakter.

    1. Well, basically every character in there would be better off if political leaders didn't play games so much and instead considered armed forces as fine for defence only.

    2. Oil and geostrategy are not at all the purpose. There's a concerted effort by some to rationalize the USA's irrational foreign policy as being somehow logical. America's anti-Iranian foreign policy is driven by domestic politics.

      The primary motivation is the Zionist lobby, but Saudi influence is strong in American politics as well. Many Republicans are also irrationally hawkish for reasons which are basically emotional (these emotions aren't bad, they just need to be channeled positively), and Democrats are constantly vulnerable to charge of being "weak on defense" and thus get in on warmongering as well (that's how the Viet Nam War started).

      Oil and geostrategy was allegedly the reason for invading Iraq. In reality it was again the Zionist lobby mating well with the megalomania of George W. Bush. Iraq never privatized its oil reserves, many oil service contracts went to the Chinese, and Iraq refused to become an American military base.

      There is no way in hell that America is going to invade Iran in 2020. War fatigue is now part of American domestic politics, comparable to the "Viet Nam syndrome" which existed from 1973-1990.

  4. I always considered it to be obvious that the USA sanctions and "no fly zone" (free bombing zone) against Iraq were just logical steps towards occupation/destruction.

    Crippling the enemy before the big show starts.

    The post is good. Just strange it is even necessary.