Only days prior to the official commencement of the European Union's embargo on Iranian oil, Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, penned an op-ed in Foreign Policy entitled "Battle Rial," calling again -- as he has repeatedly -- on the United States to step up what he admits is "economic warfare" against Iran and its more than 76 million people. Economic sanctions kill people -- as shown vividly in Iraq -- and may eventually lead to military attacks that will kill even more. This is not "defending democracy," but advocating war and destruction.
In contradiction to the statements by the most senior officials of U.S. President Barack Obama's administration, from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to CIA Director David Petraeus, Dubowitz asserts that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon. He does not present a shred of evidence or even a reference for his claim, which contravenes even Israeli military and intelligence assessments -- notably that of IDF chief Benny Gantz and the former heads of both Mossad and Shin Bet. Moreover, despite questions over alleged past weapons research, the International Atomic Energy Agency has found no evidence of the diversion of fissile material from Iranian nuclear sites for non-peaceful purposes.
Although Dubowitz's approach has not yet received a ringing endorsement from the Obama administration, many in Congress have been more than ready to lend a sympathetic ear. Dubowitz calls upon the White House to support legislation that would blacklist the entire Iranian energy sector as a "zone of primary proliferation concern." This legislation, in its attempts to link Iran's entire energy sector to its unproven nuclear weapons program, is an unprecedented move that seeks to deliver a knockout blow to Iran by further eroding the revenues obtained through oil sales, which account for some 80 percent of the country's export earnings. It is these funds that allow the country to purchase basic foodstuffs such as wheat and grain to feed the population, preventing millions of households from being plunged into deprivation and hunger. If one wishes to take Dubowitz's argument to its logical extreme, why not just embargo the foodstuffs and medicine directly -- they sustain Iran's nuclear scientists and personnel, after all -- so that they are incapable of furthering the technical development of Iran's nuclear program?
Sanctions were initially supposed to directly target Iran's nuclear program -- and then, as the net widened, military organizations such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) and its engineering arm, the Khatam-al-Anbia, along with persistent human rights violators, such as officials of the Ministry of Intelligence. However, the sanctions have turned into an all-encompassing iron fist geared to the destruction of Iran's most important source of revenue, the energy sector. Dubowitz even advocates targeting Iran's automotive industry -- a sector that provides thousands of jobs to ordinary Iranians with no discernible connection to the country's nuclear program.
If Dubowitz's aim is not a diplomatic solution, but rather driving an already angry and restive population to the point of despair so that it rises up against the ruling theocracy, he should plainly state so. But is such a goal even achievable at the present time? The aftermath of Iran's hotly contested -- and by many accounts fraudulent -- 2009 presidential election saw unprecedented protests and the rise of the home-grown Green Movement, which had been in the making for some 20 years. The movement did not realize its goals because the opposition was disorganized and did not have a comprehensive plan for how to proceed. Its leadership and its advisers were quickly rounded up, jailed, and silenced. The opposition, both inside and outside the country, is now in an even weaker state. Still, the opposition inside Iran and a significant portion of the opposition in the diaspora reject foreign intervention and sanctions as a form of collective punishment -- they know their enfeebled position isn't helped by economic warfare and the threat of military attacks.
there is little doubt that the hardliners around Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's
office, the top brass of the IRGC, and leading figures in the Intelligence
Ministry will continue to repress opposition to their rule, the constant state
of emergency will only benefit them and legitimize their raison d'être
in the face of an external enemy. The remaining oil revenues, which flow into
the country from oil exports to China,
Japan, India, and others, will stay firmly in the hands of the hardliners and
the repressive organs of the state. Meanwhile, youth unemployment -- which accounts for 70 percent of unemployment -- will rise higher, and the quality of life of the underprivileged and retirees reliant on government handouts for their meager existence will decline further.