tehranbureau An independent source of news on Iran and the Iranian diaspora

Victims of Economic Sanctions: The People and the Green Movement

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

23 Nov 2010 03:4762 Comments

True supporters of democracy in Iran uniformly opposed to sanctions.

[ analysis ] Ever since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected Iran's president in 2005, relations between Iran and the West have steadily deteriorated. While, except for the United States, no other nation imposed any significant economic sanctions on Iran during the administrations of former Presidents Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, the West has now moved to impose tough economic sanctions on Iran. Although, as I will describe, these sanctions are both immoral -- because they victimize first and foremost the ordinary Iranian people -- and illegal, one must not underestimate or ignore the contribution of Ahmadinejad's behavior and pronouncements, and particularly his aggressive, confrontational, and senseless foreign "policy," to the creation of an atmosphere that allows the United States and its allies to justify the sanctions. In other words, the Western powers will do whatever they believe is in their interest and offer whatever rationalizations are most viable. It is therefore up to the leaders of the targeted nation -- Iran, in this case -- not to provide easy excuses for the advancement of the external agenda.

Consider, for example, Iran's nuclear program, which is the most important reason for the sanctions. Ever since the existence of the Natanz enrichment facility was formally announced by Khatami in February 2003, Iran's fundamental position regarding its nuclear program has not changed: It has consistently rejected abandoning uranium enrichment, but has expressed willingness to negotiate every major issue about the program. This was true both during the Khatami administration -- when the West did not dare to send Iran's nuclear dossier to the United Nations -- and ever since.

But the West's approach changed once Ahmadinejad became president. The West succeeded in pressuring the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to send Iran's nuclear dossier to the U.N. Security Council in February 2006, half a year into his first term and less than three months after he denied that the Holocaust ever occurred and made remarks about Israel that captured the world's attention. True, he never uttered the infamous words, "Israel must be wiped off the map." The actual words were, "The Imam [Ayatollah Khomeini] said this regime, occupying Jerusalem, must vanish from the page of time," simply referring to the government's collapse, akin to what happened in the Soviet Union. In fact, Iran's position since the 1979 Revolution has always been that Jews, Christians, and Muslims who live in the Holy Land must vote freely in a referendum to select their destiny for themselves. But by the time the intentional mistranslation of Ahmadinejad's words was revealed, the damage had already been done.

The Sanctions

The Security Council has issued six resolutions against Iran: 1696, approved in July 2006; 1737, passed in December 2006; 1747, passed in March 2007; 1803, approved in March 2008; 1835 (which reaffirmed the preceding four), approved in September 2008; and 1929, passed in June 2010. Beginning with Resolution 1737, the UNSC began imposing sanctions on Iran, which have been gradually ratcheted up. Resolution 1929, the most recent, has imposed the toughest sanctions on the Islamic Republic:

(1) It forbids sales of even conventional military hardware, including tanks and fighter aircraft, to Iran. It also attempts to hamper Iran's efforts to develop more advanced missiles. Following the resolution's approval, Russia announced that it would not deliver the S-300 missile system, a highly sophisticated air defense system.

(2) It imposes sanctions on Iran's shipping companies and asks other nations to inspect Iranian ships that may transport contraband cargo.

(3) It asks other nations to deny financial sources to foreign companies that are suspected of being involved in selling items that may be used in Iran's nuclear program.

(4) It adds 40 companies to the list of Iranian companies and entities supposedly involved in nuclear and nuclear-related (dual use) activity that had already been sanctioned by the previous resolutions.

(5) It asks U.N. members to exercise "vigilance" over transactions that involve Iran's banks.

Importantly, however, Iran's energy sector was not significantly restricted, presumably because China has extensive interests in Iran's oil and natural gas industry, worth at least $40 billion. Resolution 1929 also does not impose sanctions on the export of Iran's oil and gas, nor does it forbid the sale of gasoline to the Islamic Republic.

In an article in 2007, I argued that when the IAEA sent Iran's nuclear dossier to the Security Council, it acted illegally. In addition, I argued that, regardless of the legality of that action, the Security Council violated its obligations under the U.N. Charter when it demanded that Iran suspend its nuclear program and began imposing sanctions. The issue was recently revisited in a comprehensive article by Eric Brill, who repeated some of my arguments and expanded on them greatly, particularly regarding the Security Council's course of action. I will therefore not discuss this aspect of the issue any further, and instead focus on the economic and political implications of the sanctions imposed on Iran.

In addition to the Security Council resolutions, the U.S. and its European allies have imposed their own sets of sanctions on Iran. American sanctions against Iran are nothing new. Since the 1979 Revolution, the United States has imposed 19 types of sanctions on Iran. It has sometimes relaxed the sanctions a bit, only to retighten them. After the passage of Security Council Resolution 1929, Congress approved and President Barack Obama signed into law on July 1 the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010, that includes the following:

(1) It bans from the U.S. market companies that work with Iranian companies involved with Iran's nuclear program.

(2) It cuts off from the U.S. financial system any bank that is involved in transactions with Iranian entities that are sanctioned by the Security Council or the United States.

(3) It imposes sanctions on any Iranian entity and individual accused of suppressing the democratic movement in Iran, and targets companies that provide technologies to Iran that the hardliners may use to repress political dissent.

(4) It forbids the U.S. government from entering into contracts with any firm that does business with any sanctioned Iranian company or entity.

(5) It bans the sale of gasoline and other refined products to Iran of more than $1 million each time, or more than $5 million in a year.

(6) It closes loopholes in the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act of 1996, which targeted foreign companies that invest more than $20 million a year in Iran's oil and natural gas industry.

Unlike most such laws, the new law provided the president with only limited waiver power on national security grounds. Washington then blacklisted a large number of Iran's military leaders, companies that are linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a few charitable foundations, and several companies that have been acting as fronts for Iran's nuclear program and military. The president also signed a special executive order on September 29 that imposed sanctions on eight notorious Iranian political figures and security officials who have played leading roles in violating the rights of Iranian citizens since the rigged presidential election of June 2009. Such U.S. allies as Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Norway, and South Korea have imposed their own restrictions on commerce with Iran.

Note that all of the U.S. economic sanctions against Iran are in violation of the Algiers Accord of January 1981 that ended the hostage crisis.

The European Union, Iran's largest commercial partner, moved to impose its own set of sanctions on Iran. The sanctions act, approved by the EU on July 27, includes the following elements:

(1) It forbids investments in, or technical assistance to, Iran's oil and natural gas industry.

(2) It imposes tough financial restrictions, including prohibitions on insurance for Iranian trade and the sale of Iranian bonds in Europe.

(3) It bars Iran's cargo planes from landing at EU airports.

(4) It outlaws the sale of equipment or technology that may be used for uranium enrichment, including dual-use equipment, though it acknowledges Iran's legitimate right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

(5) It freezes the assets of a number of Revolutionary Guard officers and government officials, and bars them from traveling to Europe.

With the possible exceptions of North Korea and Zimbabwe, Iran is the most sanctioned nation on earth, thanks to Ahmadinejad. Even Cuba fares much better than the Islamic Republic.

Consequences of the Sanctions and Their Victims

As always, the hardliners are acting defiant. They declare with supreme confidence that they can beat the sanctions. Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei, Ahmadinejad, and other hardliners have declared that the sanctions will spur greater self-reliance and promote domestic ingenuity. Khamenei interpreted the sanctions as a sign of Iran's growing influence. He claimed that they indicate the "increasing power of awakening Islam," saying they are a "potential opportunity" and a "blessing." In his typical fashion, Ahmadinejad referred to past sanctions resolutions as "pathetic," called Resolution 1929 a "used napkin destined for the garbage can," vowed not to make "one iota of concession," and declared that even "100 times more sanctions" would not have an impact on the Iranian economy.

Many of the steps that the hardliners have taken, both domestically and internationally, demonstrate that they are really worried. Before Resolution 1929 was approved by the Security Council, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki went to Vienna in an attempt to convince the Austrian government, a nonpermanent member of the council, to vote against the sanctions. He was rebuffed. Bosnia, another nonpermanent Security Council member, which was supported greatly by the Islamic Republic during the Balkan wars of the 1990s, gave the same response: It planned to vote against Iran, and it did. Russia's position vis-à-vis sanctions shifted in a similar direction. President Dmitri Medvedev stated several times that Iran had acted irresponsibly toward the international community in regard to its nuclear program, and that there might be no alternative but more sanctions. It voted for the sanctions, and the Islamic Republic's relations with Russia have continued to deteriorate.

The sanctions have been hurting Iran's economy in a variety of ways:

(1) Because many insurance companies have refused to provide coverage for Iranian ships that carry crude oil to international markets and gasoline to Iran, they have not been able to enter ports to deliver or pick up goods. As a result, the Islamic Republic has been trying to reflag part of its cargo fleet. That has increased the cost of exporting oil, hence decreasing income from this vital industry. Who ultimately pays for this? The most vulnerable layers of the society do.

(2) The most important European oil companies have withdrawn from Iran's oil and natural gas projects, and have stopped supplying gasoline to Iran. Even Iran Air is encountering difficulties, with many European airports refusing to handle its passenger flights. Japan gave up its share in the gigantic Azadegan oil field. The Khatami administration had predicted that Iran would need $100 billion in investments over a 20-year period just to keep its share of the oil market, of which $40-50 billion was supposed to be supplied by foreign oil companies. The Khatami administration succeeded in attracting large European oil companies to the Iranian market, but Ahmadinejad and his team have scared them away, hence endangering the future of Iran's oil and natural gas industry. Under the Khatami administration Asalouyeh, a port city on the shores of the Persian Gulf, became a thriving city with tens of thousands of high-paying engineering and other technical jobs; now it is almost deserted. Who has paid for this fiasco? The middle class.

The squeeze on Iran's oil and natural gas sector has been so severe that Khatam-o Anbia, the Revolutionary Guards' engineering arm, abandoned phases 15 and 16 of the development of the gigantic South Pars natural gas field because it could not carry out the project without European participation. Mehdi Bazaargan, a high-ranking Ministry of Oil official, has conceded that the cost of carrying out energy projects in Iran has doubled over the past few years, chiefly due to the sanctions. But do not worry about Khatam-ol Anbia. It has signed other contracts with the Ahmadinejad administration worth $21 billion.

(3) Many Japanese and South Korean corporations have reduced, or eliminated altogether, their dealings with Iran, fearing U.S. sanctions.

(4) Not only has oil production decreased by 141 million barrels, Iran has also had difficulty selling what it does produce. Major buyers, such as Japan, Malaysia, and even China, have reduced their oil imports from Iran and turned increasingly to Saudi Arabia as a supplier. Who pays for this? The lower and middle classes do, because with less money to spend, there are far fewer opportunities for employment and development.

(5) The EU vetoed Iran's participation in the Nabucco pipeline that is being built to transport natural gas from the Caspian Sea area to Turkey and Europe. There had been talk of Iran supplying part of the natural gas through a pipeline that it is building from the southern to the western part of the country. Once again, due to Ahmadinejad's foreign policy -- if it is even deserving of the name -- an opportunity to make Iran indispensable to Europe was lost, probably forever.

(6) In April, Daimler Benz announced that it would sell its 30 percent share in the production of Iranian diesel engines that have been used for years in producing large trucks in Iran. Toyota has also withdrawn from the Iranian market. The automotive industry is one of the country's largest, employing hundreds of thousands.

(7) The cost of banking and insurance for foreign trade has increased dramatically.

Together with the impact on the oil sector, this represents the most visible effect of the sanctions. Due to the official and unofficial sanctions that the EU countries have imposed on Iran, the cost of commerce with the EU has increased dramatically, about 30 percent. One prominent consequence was the sudden surge in the rate of exchange between the dollar and Iran's currency, the rial. A few weeks ago the rate suddenly shot up around 30 percent, followed by a huge rush to exchange rials for dollars. It got so bad that the Central Bank was forced to prohibit the sale of large amounts of dollars and had to intervene to bring down the rate of exchange. Whenever the rate of exchange between the dollar and rial increases, so also do the prices of many essential commodities. But though the government routinely brings the rate back down, the prices stay up. Who profits most from this? The Mafia-like network of corporations and individuals that are linked with the Revolutionary Guards and security and intelligence forces, and the reactionary clerics profits. Who is hurt most by this? The most vulnerable strata of the society -- those who live on fixed incomes, day laborers, and similar groups.

(8) Because the sanctions force Iran to buy certain items in the black market, it must also pay higher prices and wait longer to receive them, which is itself costly.

(9) Due to the climate that has been created as a result of the sanctions, Iran must pay considerably higher interest rates for any loan that it receives. In addition, it must also pay higher interests to attract buyers for any bonds that it offers in the international market.

(10) A hotly debated subject and a source of friction between Ahmadinejad and the Majles (parliament) has been the fifth development program. The sanctions may delay the program, and will surely lead to a drop in foreign investments. The Ahmadinejad administration has already been severely criticized for not implementing the fourth development program initiated during the Khatami administration.

(11) Political repression, social restrictions, and the terrible state of the economy caused by the sanctions and the incompetence of the Ahmadinejad administration have caused a severe brain drain. Many of the best and brightest of Iran's educated youth have been leaving the country at a rapid pace. The brain drain is nothing new. It actually began during Khatami's second term, when it became clear that the hardliners would not allow him to implement his reforms. It has accelerated dramatically since 2007, and particularly in the aftermath of last year's rigged presidential election. Every single day I receive at least one or two emails from outstanding students in Iran, asking me to accept them into my research program or help them gain admittance to my university in other engineering disciplines. By comparison, a couple of years ago, I received one or two such emails every two weeks. My academic friends and colleagues around the United States tell me the same thing. It is impossible to estimate the economic cost and implications of such a brain drain.

The sanctions have also generated considerable friction between the government and the powerful merchants of the bazaar -- as the business district in Tehran and all the major cities is known. The cash-strapped government has been trying to impose a value-added tax on gold, silver, and other precious metals, as well as other pricey items. The bazaar, backed by traditional conservative political parties, such as the Islamic Coalition Party, has resisted the tax. It went on strike for a brief period, and may do so again.

The government has threatened to use the Basij militia to control the bazaar. Like practically everything else, dealing with the bazaar has become a security issue for the hardliners.

An official or unofficial ban on the export of gasoline to Iran will be particularly painful, and it is already partially implemented. About one million Iranians work in the transportation sector of the economy, and millions more depend on the sector for employment and to carry their products to markets. With much fanfare, the Ahmadinejad administration announced that it had reached self-sufficiency in gasoline production by converting some petrochemical plants. However, the gasoline produced by these plants constitutes a major health hazard. The idea was first discussed during the Khatami administration and rejected by then Minister of Oil Bijan Namdar-Zangeneh due both to the heath risks and the negative impact on the petrochemical industry. Indeed, the export of many petrochemical products has ceased, while at the same time the government still imports gasoline. Clearly, the domestic industries that depend on petrochemical products, such as plastics and polymers, have also been hurt, exacerbating the unemployment problem. Despite this, there remains considerable ambiguity in the price of gasoline and whether the government still intends to ration it. One reason: If the price of gasoline is too high, in addition to its direct effect on every commodity, it will also negatively affect the automotive industry.

This is, of course, true about any industry. If, for example, Iran's car industry is sanctioned effectively by the French and South Korean firms that operate in Iran, or go bankrupt due to high price of gasoline and its scarcity, not only will hundreds of thousands of car industry workers will lose their jobs, the employment of those in closely related fields, such as the steel industry, will also be threatened. Once again, the most vulnerable strata of the society is hurt, while the fat cats of the military- and security-led industries grow ever fatter.

Some statistics are telling: Iran's foreign debt currently stands at $31.53 billion, implying 34 percent growth over last year. The income from oil exports has decreased by $16 billion, while oil production has declined by 141 million barrels. The ratio of imports to exports is nearly 2:1. The official rate of unemployment is 14.6 percent, though it is believed by practically all economists that the actual rate is nearly 30 percent, when severe underemployment is taken into account. As for the inflation rate, the Majles report states that it has increased from 10 percent in 2005 (the last year of Khatami's presidency) to 25 percent in 2008. Over the last several months the price of 29 basic commodities has increased dramatically, and people are frightened.

Sober heads have warned that sanctions are hurting the nation deeply. Rafsanjani has said repeatedly that the sanctions are not a joke and must be taken seriously. The research center of the Majles, headed by Ahmad Tavakoli, just released a report that declared a recession and described the state of the economy as "dangerous." The annual rate of economic growth has been estimated at 1.6 percent, a paltry figure. The report said that the government has run out of cash and cannot pay for goods and services that it receives from the private sector, exacerbating the problem. The Khatami administration had estimated that Iran needs annual growth rates of 8-10 percent just to keep unemployment around 10 percent.

At the same time, with the planned elimination of subsidies on many commodities, Iranian society is essentially waiting for an explosion in the price of everything. There are many reports, including from my own family members and relatives, that people are stockpiling basic commodities, fearing that the increase in the prices -- which has already begun -- will be so steep that they will no longer be able to afford certain items.

Despite the terrible situation, the many indications that Iran's economy is spiraling downward, and the fact that it is the ordinary people that are paying the cost of the hardliners' policies, the idiotic proclamations by the hardliners and their cronies have continued. Minister of Finance Sayyed Shamsoddin Hosseini has declared that sanctions have made Iran much stronger, but did not say in what sense. Mahmoud Bahmani, Governor of Iran's Central Bank, stated that sanctions will reduce imports of nonessential products, hence helping reduce the price of other goods. Minister of Health Marziyeh Vahid Dastjerdi (wife of Hossein Shariatmadari, managing editor of Kayhan, the hardliners' mouthpiece) claimed that, due to the sanctions, Iran's pharmaceutical industry has reached almost 100 percent self-sufficiency. A military commander boasts that despite the Security Council sanctions, Iran is now exporting military equipment to many countries.

This brings us to another fiasco created by the Ahmadinejad administration. The cargo from an Iranian port that supposedly had building materials was confiscated in Nigeria. It turned out to contain 107-mm rockets, ammunition, and other arms. The Nigerian government reported the incident to the Security Council as a violation of the sanctions imposed on Iran. Iranian Ambassador Hussein Abdullahi could not handle the delicate situation. Foreign Minister Mottaki had to travel to Nigeria to explain what had happened, acknowledging that the arms were from Iran, but claiming that they were intended for Gambia. True or not, the claim is a blow to Iran's relatively close relations with Senegal, which surrounds Gambia on three sides.

Despite their rhetoric, none of the hardliners are willing to answer a simple question: If all the claims are true, why does Iran, a dynamic, resource-rich nation, with a young and educated population, sitting in the most strategic area on the globe, need sanctions by nearly every major nation to spur its economy, reach "self-sufficiency," and become a power to reckon with? Why does Iran become self-sufficient in producing gasoline (which is actually not true) only after the threat of worldwide sanctions looms?

At the same time, the hardliners' actions betray the superficiality of their self-confidence.

Minister of Labor Abdolreza Sheikholeslami has refused to specify the poverty line for income, below which a family of four is considered to be in absolute poverty. Even if he is inclined to do so, he cannot, because prices of the most essential goods have been changing on weekly or even daily basis, mostly upward. Even declaring the prices of essential commodities is becoming a security issue, with some Revolutionary Guard and security officials threatening to punish those who worry people with such issues.

The United States and its allies have been claiming all along that the sanctions are not intended to increase the hardships of the Iranian people, but only to punish the regime. It has become clear that the claim is bogus. Even President Obama, while expressing his "concerns" for the Iranian people, has said that he believes they should blame their leaders for their plight.

Are Sanctions Good for the Green Movement?

I should first stress that both Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the leaders of the Green Movement, have emphatically opposed the sanctions. In October 2009 Mousavi warned against imposing sanctions on Iran, declaring, "Sanctions would not affect the government but would impose many hardships upon the people, who suffer enough as a result of the calamity of their insane rulers." This past May, before the approval of Security Council Resolution 1929, he said, "The issue of sanctions has been raised against our nation. Although we think this situation arose from tactless and adventurous foreign policies, we are against it because it will affect people's lives."

In an interview with the Guardian, Karroubi said, "On the one hand, the government's mishandling of the economy has resulted in deep recession and increasing inflation inside the country.... On the other hand, we have sanctions that are just strengthening the illegitimate government." He added, "Look at Cuba and North Korea. Have sanctions brought democracy to their people? They have just made them more isolated and given [their governments] the opportunity to crack down on their opposition without bothering themselves about the international attention."

Dr. Amir Ardeshir Arjomand, a top Mousavi advisor, said, "The international community must not punish workers, teachers and deprived sectors of the Iranian nation." He observed that average Iranians are being punished for the actions of "a president who lacks legitimacy among the people," and that, "contrary to baseless claims, the sanctions will have a clear effect on the day-to-day lives of the people -- therefore the Green Movement wants an end to the economic sanctions. The harm resulting from these sanctions has a direct impact on the situation of the people's livelihoods and will create basic problems for using national resources."

Every major figure in the opposition inside Iran has asserted the same time and again. All the major reformist groups have issued statements against the sanctions, while holding Ahmadinejad and the hardliners partly responsible for them. Dr. Ali Shakouri Rad (who was recently detained for a brief period), a member of the central committee of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, the largest reformist group, stated, "The government will say that critics of their policies are doing the foreigners' bidding" and will use sanctions as a pretext to silence opponents.

It is amply clear that the opposition to the hardliners inside Iran correctly observes that sanctions hurt only the most vulnerable strata of Iranian society. The sanctions are also viewed by the hardliners as a "God-sent" gift -- an excuse for suppressing political dissidents and linking them with foreign powers. Sanctions are also used to hide the utter incompetence, corruption, and Mafia-like operations of the hardliners.

It is estimated that 60 percent of Iran's official economy is controlled by the government. Almost all of Iran's underground economy is controlled by the Revolutionary Guards, the security apparatus, the hardline clerics, and their cronies. Thus there can be no economic sanctions that both hurt the hardliners and spare the ordinary people. Moreover, who benefits most from the sanctions? The same groups that control the underground economy.

Despite the emphatic opposition of every major Green Movement figure in Iran to sanctions, and the glaring fact that it is ordinary Iranians who are suffering most from them, a few public figures among the opposition in the diaspora support the sanctions. They rationalize their position with some of the most absurd arguments, to put it extremely politely. Some are the usual opportunist culprits, the ones that change their positions all the time just to be recognized as "leaders." One, for example, was a communist, then an ardent supporter of Khatami, then turned against the Reform Movement, then was at the forefront of an ill-advised attempt to force the hardliners to hold a referendum, then became a supporter of the Green Movement, and is now a proponent of the sanctions. When George W. Bush ordered the American invasion of Iraq, the same person declared that to get rid of the Islamic Republic "we need the U.S. pickaxe," seemingly supporting military attacks on Iran. Another one of these characters was an ardent supporter of the neoconservatives and what Bush was doing in Iraq -- to the extent that he was referred to an Iranian neocon -- and is supposedly a member of an Iranian republican group. Others include the supporters of the Mojahedin-e Khalgh Organization and a faction of the monarchists. (I do not suggest that the monarchists and the MKO are allied or ideologically similar.)

Most interestingly, such supporters of the sanctions have become bedfellows with the neoconservatives and the Israel lobby that advocate exactly the same thing. This is not really surprising. When one supporter of the sanctions stated during the Bush era that Iranians need the U.S. pickaxe, when another one enthusiastically supported and justified whatever Bush did, when John Bolton shows up at the MKO demonstrations, and when the neocons support them in any way they can, why should anyone be surprised? As such Iranian supporters of sanctions are in fact quite scarce, the neocons have even begun lying, claiming that many well-known supporters of the Green Movement actually support the sanctions -- see this fascinating article by Ali Gharib.

It is instructive to see how such Iranian supporters of the sanctions rationalize their position.

Economic pressure on the people will be transferred to the ruling elite and change their behavior.

First of all, there is no credible evidence that this will happen. In fact, based on historical trends, both in Iran and elsewhere, the opposite is true. Not only will the hardliners not change their position as a result of the sanctions, they will almost certainly become more tightly bound to it. Dr. Habibollah Payman, leader of Jonbesh-e Mosalmaanaan-e Mobaarez (Movement of Militant Muslims), a group within the E'telaaf-e Melli-Mazhabi (Nationalist-Religious Coalition) perhaps put it best when he said,

When the government is threatened by economic sanctions, and feels that they threatened its existence, its reaction will not be limited to some aspects of its policies. The view of the ruling establishing of the economic sanctions, together with political and psychological pressure and military threats, is that they threaten its existence. Thus, it feels utterly insecure and finds itself in a defensive posture and, therefore, it does not think it as wise to retreat, because it is well aware that any retreat will advance the opposition and increase and accentuate its pressure that may ultimately lead to the loss of power and destroying the instability and equilibrium of the political system.

Thus, it is possible, as we also witnessed [how the ruling elite dealt with the Green Movement] and we guess that it [the present state of affairs] will continue, the defensive reactions of the state will continue to be confrontational. What is the root cause of the defensive reaction? Under the conditions in which the political system is unstable, the unhappiness and dissatisfaction inside the country that potentially exist may lead to protests, and thus [the state] will increase its pressure on the society. Freedom becomes more limited and social movement and civic actions are controlled more tightly. We have already seen that as the sanctions have become stronger over the past five years, the state's pressure on the people has also increased. Thus, unlike what some people believe -- that increasing the pressure on the people will change the behavior of the state -- the change takes place in the opposition direction.

As the government's pressure on the people increases, their protests will also increase, ultimately forcing the government to change its behavior or even change the political system.

Such an argument assumes that both the people and the government behave rationally under pressure. In fact, as Payman put it, there are two types of behavior and reactions in a pressured atmosphere. One type is emotional, or irrational. First, the people confront the state. The confrontation eventually turns violent and the people become aware that their own power is far overshadowed by that of the pro-regime forces. That prompts two primary responses. Some people isolate themselves and try to forget what happened through, and some try to attach themselves to a center of power to attain a modicum of comfort and security. A small fraction of the people may continue to confront the state, however ineffectively.

This state of affairs continues, according to Payman, until conditions change very significantly. For example, the state feels that it has total control and thus lowers the pressure -- it enacts some reforms to make people's lives better, and the society becomes more open. It is under such conditions that creative resistance to the government begins. Led by the better informed and more educated strata, it begins in the cultural realm and represents a long-term form of resistance that can ultimately change the system.

There is the threat of military attacks on Iran. Economic sanctions make such attacks less likely.

This is a totally bogus argument. First, tough economic sanctions are tantamount to war. Recall that the terrible economic sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s ruined that society and caused a large number of deaths, estimates for which ranged from 170,000 to 1.5 million. The UNICEF estimate was 500,000, most of them children. In 1999, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said,

If the substantial reduction in child mortality throughout Iraq during the 1980s had continued through the 1990s, there would have been half a million fewer deaths of children under-five in the country as a whole during the eight year period 1991 to 1998. As a partial explanation, she pointed to a March statement of the Security Council Panel on Humanitarian Issues which states: "Even if not all suffering in Iraq can be imputed to external factors, especially sanctions, the Iraqi people would not be undergoing such deprivations in the absence of the prolonged measures imposed by the Security Council and the effects of war."

Second, sanctions can be a prelude to military war. Iraq is again a good example. When George W. Bush was elected president, he was determined to attack Iraq. One of his administration's main claims was that the world had tried sanctions against Iraq and that they had failed. Even if we assume that the Obama administrative does not want to attack Iran, arguing for and supporting sanctions establishes a narrative that can be used by the next president to rationalize an attack.

Third, an argument that Iranian supporters of sanctions often make is that sanctions worked in the case of South Africa. While sanctions did have some effect on the apartheid regime, mainly because the South African economy was heavily dependent on investments by and trade with Western countries, they were not the primary reason why the ruling white minority gave up power. Rather, white leaders recognized that by resisting the black majority, whites would eventually lose everything -- both political and economic power -- whereas by relinquishing their hold on political power they could preserve their economic strength. That is indeed what has happened. Sixteen years after Nelson Mandela was first elected South Africa's first black president, whites still control much of the country's wealth.

Make no mistake: Those who claim to be supporters of the Green Movement, but also support the sanctions, have a hidden agenda: to discredit the Movement and present themselves as the "secular democratic alternative." They are neither democrats, nor do they represent an alternative, as they have no popular base within Iran.

Those who are true supporters of democracy and the Green Movement in Iran say no to economic sanctions, no to war and the threat of war, and support the movement and its leaders in Iran who have also rejected economic sanctions and war.

Copyright © 2010 Tehran Bureau

SHAREtwitterfacebookSTUMBLEUPONbalatarin reddit digg del.icio.us


"...tough economic sanctions are tantamount to war..."

Exactly! If Iranian government positions herself aligned with the so called 'international' community (albeit this is the laughable P5+1 countries), then it will be little different than the Shah's regime. Remember...that's the kind of a leader he was. It makes no sense to claim to be a soverign independent nation while formulating your policies to appease to the wants of the outside powers.

Sannctions are terrible, but avoiding them has become the new carrot on the stick after which they will have you chase it until you lose all your sense of identity, becoming simply an extention to their aspirations.

Europe faught with itself and lived through filth and famine for centuries before it emerged as the region it is today. South Korea, China, and others in southeast asia have paid an even higher price for a longer period for the success they are only now beginning to enjoy.

Ahmadinejad stood for the rights of all Iranians, and that brought us hardship for five years and we are already panicking and blaming ourselves. Let's have a leader that knows how to...you know...be politically correct so we can cling to the comforts to which we are so accustomed; you know, the "Lords of Asia," and all.

If Iran does not want to be anyone's stooge, she has a long long way to go. This is the moment of truth: either the country withstands the pressure from outside with sweat, tears, and blood - for generations to come - or it will be just another leaf in the wind; another sunflower in the sun.

"The problem is choice!"

Ekbatana / November 23, 2010 6:54 AM

Sad to see the same nonsense about "illegal" UN Security Council actions being brought up once again. The author has simply ignored, without making any attempt to address, the debunking of the points he has made on that subject here in the past. No wonder Dr. Sahimi "will therefore not discuss this aspect of the issue any further".

In all of his articles, it seems, the author begins his discussion of the recent history of the Iranian nuclear programme with words to the effect that "the existence of the Natanz enrichment facility was formally announced by Khatami in February 2003", conveniently forgetting to mention that the existence of the facility was, in fact, announced not by Khatami but by the MeK, and only later acknowledged by Iran when their cover had thus been blown. Anyone less familiar with the history would take a very different impression from Dr. Sahimi's article.

In both cases there is no effort to conceal the bias -- Dr. Sahimi's articles, in fact, exist in the same alternate reality inhabited by the Iranian government, their propagandists and enablers where any pressure on the Iranian government in response to its blatantly duplicitous actions is regarded as both illegal and immoral. Dr. Sahimi would like to influence the Green movement with his articles, but I think the Green movement should beware of anyone who thus seeks to "guide" the movement in a manner beneficial to the Iranian government on the nuclear issue.

The truth is that Iran is acting irrationally by not accepting comprehensive inspections of its nuclear facilities (inspections which every other significant country allows), as is clear to everyone interested in non-proliferation. They have come under pressure because they kept their programme secret, repeatedly and over many years concealing nuclear facilities. Dr. Sahimi is effectively arguing that those in the Green movement should pressure other countries to drop demands that Iran allow inspections and so forth, rather than pressure Iran to behave responsibly. And of course, anyone who criticises his position is a Zionist spy, to boot ;-)

Ian / November 23, 2010 7:19 AM


First off, we are all aware of your pro-Likud (i.e pro Bomb Iran) agenda which is the only subject you care to comment on. You are a Pirouz but from Likud instead of Basij.

These comprehensive inspections you talk of have no legal basis or for that matter no final line. Who is setting these standards and based on what guideline? Who is to say when Iran has fully accommodated these Requests? US? The same way they have moved their standard year after year based on the conditions on the ground? Khatami's complete disbandment of all illegal nuclear activity, elimination of support for Hamas and Hezbollah, and outreached hand was not enough and was only was beaten back more threats and more sanctions which actually paved the way for Likud's natural allies; the Iranian Hardliners. These two power centers feed off of each other, but that is subject for book not a paragraph.

What you have fail to even remotely recognize, in addition to your complete disregards for all Iranians/humans (people who are not Jews), is that sanction only strengthen the hands of hardliners and weaken the progressive front. Basij will always have its oil money. It's the educated middle and lower class who are left out in the cold with no opportunities, no connection to the outside world, and no factories or industries left standing. These sanctions provide the fuels of resentment for the regime supporters and prove the Us vs. Them mentality. These sanctions are an excuse for the corrupt rulers of Iran to justify their theft and miss-management of Iranian wealth with no oversight and get away with.

Dr. Sahimi is simply making the valid point that these sanctions hinder the the Iranian people, their voices, and the chance for a democratic movement which cannot be accused on working for the "enemy". This supposed enemy plays its part perfectly and maintains her real/pretend animosity day in and day out. Not to mention the threat of nuclear annihilation. Again, although I doubt that you already not know this but, this policy only embowers the IRG and their goons who specialize in black markets and have these sanctions to thank for the elimination of their only competition: Iranians who want to do business legally.

Ali (UCLA) / November 23, 2010 9:31 AM

Ian your facts are outmoded.

For instance, US intelligence was already aware of the enrichment activities at Natanz and several US leaders had been briefed on the matter well before that MEK press conference you refer to. Furthermore, that old issue has been resolved with the IAEA, satisfactorily.

As to the current issue of contention, revolving around the so-called "laptop of death," I suggest you read the latest of a number of issues into this flawed intel which call into question the authenticity and motivation behind these anti-Iran allegations:


Muhammad is right: this is economic warfare being applied to the people of Iran, pure and simple. Where I differ with him is the actual political relevance of what he identifies as a so-called democracy movement in Iran.

Pirouz / November 23, 2010 9:54 AM

That was the biggest nonsense and pro-islamic regime propaganda i have ever read on pbs.org.

Shame on you PBS for publishing this nonsense.

pirooozzzzzzzz / November 23, 2010 10:20 AM

Ali (UCLA),

You are simply in denial about the Iranian nuclear programme and the fact that the IAEA has legitimately pointed out areas of non-compliance with current obligations (at the very least). What is all this about Jews & Arabs? It's absolutely irrelevant -- but makes a good distraction. Just like these silly non-arguments about the legality of sanctions, etc.

The first step is to recognise that Iran has a problem.

Ian / November 23, 2010 10:33 AM


A SF attorney has presented the legal argumentation of Iran's nuclear dispute, including Iran's legalist interpretation with notes, here:


I suggest you familiarize yourself with this material before making summary judgements of a highly personal nature concerning the matter.

Ari (UCLA),

I completely lack the religious worldview that encompasses the Basij. What's more, any of my perspectives that take into account such positions are offered from a sense of empathy. If you find that you need to apply my personal convictions to that of others, may I suggest you attach my views to those offered by Flynt and Hilary Mann Leverett, who are identified as Iran policy realists. For you see, my sense of advocacy is American-centric, and only directly relevant upon Iran every four years when I vote in Iran presidential elections.

Pirouz / November 23, 2010 1:36 PM


The legalities you allude to have been addressed here previously, but (as I've noted) the criticisms have been ignored. And you suggest the matters arising from the revelation of the secret Natanz facility have been resolved... but history says otherwise. The real trouble you (and others) seem to have is that I am not the one you need to convince: it's the IAEA and the Security Council. Good luck with that.

Ian / November 23, 2010 4:31 PM

You left out the Islamic Republic of Iran and the stated object of sanctions being to "convince" it to give up its enrichment rights. Yes, back at you: good luck with that.

BTW: I don't blame you for not reading or addressing Brill's piece. Silly things like fair minded interpretations of international law are boring, right? Especially when they don't conform to one's own prejudices.

Pirouz / November 23, 2010 5:38 PM


Despite the reasons given for these sanctions. Isn't it clear that they will not give the desired result?

I think Dr. Sahimi laid out very well how such laws against trade have always extended the power of the ruling class, while those that may represent an alternative to the ruling class are left more, and more helpless to oppose the rulers.

The Iranian nuclear program will continue at it's slow pace. Sanctions will not change the schedule one bit.

muhammad billy bob / November 23, 2010 6:12 PM

Sanctions hurt the ordinary people -> sanctions are imposed because of a ideologically and politically driven nuclear program -> the nuclear program is insisted upon in the most stubborn and irrational manner by the regime -> thus the regime is the problem.

Pak / November 23, 2010 6:24 PM


Iran's nuclear program is supported my a wide majority of Iranians and reflected in multiple. Even the leadership of the more liberal segment of Iranian politics affirm to protect it. Regionally speaking, too, a clear majority of persons polled are supportive of Iran's nuclear rights.

That you are imply you're against it reflects a view that could be considered anti-Iran.

Pirouz / November 23, 2010 7:19 PM


Since when you, the pro-likud, pro-war, pro-sanction against Iranian people, have become an expert on Iran's nuclear program? When you decided that you want to pick on Sahimi and everything that he writes? He ignored your criticism? Perhaps because he does not pay attention to your pro-Israel, pro-war nonsense. If an analyst were to set aside his opinion, which is usually the result of years of work and research, just because you or someone like you did not like it, then he/she would not be an analyst.

As Sahimi mentions in the article and gives the link to, and also pointed out by Pirooz, Attorney Eric Brill recently posted a comprehensive article about the legal issues involving the question of sending Iran's nuclear dossier to UNSC and the sanctions. It is a very well argued piece. You do not agree with Sahimi, don't. Read Brill's article.

Vaez / November 23, 2010 7:51 PM

It is the Islamic regime's bullheaded push for Nuclear weapons (under the cover of 'peaceful' program), and Ahmadinejad's racist, antisemetic idiotic rhetoric that has put Iran in great danger, and given the hardliners in US and Israel the excuses they need.

Whatever happens to Iran, including sanctions and even war is the regime and its supporter's fault. As usual, ordinary people pay for the actions of the extremists.

speaking of the islamic regime and its stooges,


RE "even the leadership of the more liberal segment of Iranian politics ..."

That's like saying the 'leadership of the more liberal segment of the TEA Party'....

I know you are passing yourself as the half Iranian son of a Korean war veteral who also happens to be part native American ;) ;) . You need to get your head out of that dark place and understand that the Iranian ruling regime does not represent the Iranian people. It represents the far far right of Iranian society and they hold power by brut force, sham elections and as if that is not enough, rigging those sham elections.

Again, I dont think you are THAT stupid. What are they paying you.

Ahvaz / November 23, 2010 8:11 PM


Nothing gets me riled up like reading some of the Basij bloggers on the internet, that is until I read some of your comments. You "bomb Iran bloggers" and the Basij bloggers are two sides of the same coin.

I'd wish all of you war mongers (on both sides) would just crawl inside a hole, or occupy another planet, and let the rest of us live in peace.

B / November 23, 2010 8:27 PM


I agree with you that "international laws" are silly.

What is a law if there is no way for it to be enforced? If anyone was to bother to look into how to enorce these countless "laws" they would see how silly they are.

Such "laws" are just make-work programs for the U.N., to help them increase their budget evey year.

muhammad billy bob / November 23, 2010 9:04 PM


I have already addressed the arguments made by Sahimi (and latterly by Brill) in previous comments which you are well aware of, but essentially the arguments that the Security Council has no right to take action on matters reported to it by the IAEA, or that it needs to use a specific form of words in Chapter 7 resolutions, is not accepted by anyone except a few Iran apologists. In demonstrating the absurdity of the argument about "determining a threat to the peace" I gave examples of previous Chapter 7 resolutions where no such form of words was used even though such a determination was made.

The real issue is that Iran has been, and is, in frequent violation of its obligations and has been brought to book. Of course, Iran protests its innocence repeatedly, and curses those who have come to judgment on the matter; but speak to a random selection of prison inmates anywhere, and you'll find huge numbers are "innocent" and don't accept the legitimacy of their trial for one reason or another -- "the witness was biased", "the judge hated me", etc.

muhammad billy bob,

Re: sanctions and whether they have the desired effect, or merely hurt the population, I think the jury is out on the matter in this instance. One has to bear in mind (a) that the sanctions are targeted mostly at IRGC front companies and nuclear activites, and (b) the Iranian economy was already a mess, due to socialist policies.

On the other side, some of the sanctions are less targeted (particularly re: oil) and clearly affect normal Iranians. I note the example of a US sanction concerning pistachios which can hardly be regarded as helping the cause of non-proliferation, and favours Californian farmers.

In the final analysis, it will be Iran's actions that will enable us to tell whether the sanctions are having enough of an effect on the hardliners. So far, it seems they are trying to bolster their position by blaming the economic woes on the sanctions and desperately trying to convince the population of this so they can continue the nuclear programme. And yes, the population will suffer for these sanctions along with the IRGC, but that is all the more reason to pressure the leadership to reverse its crazy nuclear policies. The real issue is non-proliferation -- if Iran gets nuclear weapons the whole world will suffer. It's useful to remember that.

Ian / November 23, 2010 11:13 PM

Dear Pirouz,

You know very well that I am not anti-Iran and your attempt to label me as one is quite lame.

I support an Iranian nuclear program, just as I support any other scientific development in Iran. But my support has its limits. Iran's economy and civil society is going down the toilet for this nuclear program, which has invited numerous sanctions and international concern. From a realist perspective, it is Iran that must make the first move. The US and other Western nations can continue isolating Iran until the cows come home, but Iran can only survive for a limited period of time.

Any pragmatic and rational leader would recognise this. Instead we have ideologically driven totalitarians in power who are willing to sacrifice their own people to make a point. Good luck with that.

Pak / November 24, 2010 1:14 AM

According to moronic Ian, Brill's and Sahimi's arguments are not accepted by anyone. What the moron Ian really means it that the arguments are not accepted by moron war mongers like him and his soul mates in the Israel lobby and neocons.

For a man who has absolutely positively definitely no record of anything on such issues , other than attacking good, thoughtful people, and for a man who has written nothing other than moronic "arguments" - read rants and hallucinations - and just as attacks on good people, Ian guy is really boastful.

This man comes to Tehran Bureau for one purpose and one purpose only: Carry water for Israel lobby, propagate exaggerations and moronic arguments, insult Iranian people, and advocate war. These are the only things he is capable of.

Vaez / November 24, 2010 7:36 AM


What makes you think these sanctions are any different than any other of the many, many examples of sanctions throughout history?

They're targeted against specific persons and companies?...Well, not really. The law is against all Americans (and some other countries) trading with any Iranian citizen or company that trades with Iranian citizens and companies. Pretty standard typical law.

As has been proven time and again, if you want the Iranian government to develop nuclear weapons the best thing you can do is pass sanctions. That's almost a guarantee they will develop such weapons.

But there's not a whole lot of worry there either. It will be quite a while before that happens, and even longer before they can develop a delivery system.

muhammad billy bob / November 24, 2010 9:27 AM


I'm used to the ad hominems, but you do lay it on a bit thick. Please refer to my comments on Dr. Sahimi's arguments towards the end of the discussion thread here.

muhammad billy bob,

The sanctions are not as sweeping as you say, and are in fact targeted. There is a lot of documentation on that subject out there. I personally don't think they'll have much effect on the nuclear issue, and won't work as they did on Libya: it seems more likely the country will go the way of North Korea. However, it would be incredibly stupid just to let Iran carry on doing what it's doing without any response. There are very few options, frankly.

What I carry away from these discussions is that too many people seem to disregard the danger of nuclear weapons, I think because many are too young to remember the Cold War. People tend to assume humanity has gotten over its obsession with these insane weapons now, but unfortunately that doesn't seem to be the case. Also, people are too easily persuaded by Iranian PR, perhaps forgetting the lies they tell every day, and that they torture, rape and murder their fellow Iranians as an act of faith, and with the poison of hatred frothing from their mouths. But it's not just about Iranians: if Iran gets these weapons, everyone has a problem.

Anonymous / November 24, 2010 12:40 PM

As Dr. Sahimi has pointed out, the practical impact of sanction on Iran has been mostly felt by ordinary citizens. A cursory examination of the history of sanctions suggest that this set of "smart" or "targeted" sanction (or any other "place-your-descriptor" sanctions) against Iran is following a trajectory similar (not identical) to previous sanction strategies.

To say that sanctions are simply the result of unilateral belligerence on the part of Iran is not only inaccurate but also disingenuous. Although I tend to agree that bellicose language of the Ahmadinejad crowd has been to the detriment of Iran's cause for international recognition of its civilian nuclear program, I also think that context is important. In addition to the efforts by Iran to engage the Bush administration - including a long suspension of nuclear program - the Iranian political system (as a whole) has been open to a "deal" for some time. After all, those in the regime see a "rational deal" as helpful to the survival of the regime. However, it appears that the US is not prepared to take YES for an answer.

An early sign that the President might not be serious about “change” vis-a-vis Iran was Obama’s decision to appoint prominent supporters of the Iraq war to key positions in his administration. Recall that Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Clinton, Middle East adviser Dennis Ross, to name a few, were supporters of the Iraq war and were generally considered Iran policy hawks long before the current administration. Dennis Ross has continually made it clear that any attempted engagement is just a formality that enables future agenda. Clinton suggested nuking Iran during her campaign - and, there are numerous speeches by Joe Biden advocating coercive policies toward Iran.

In material that has now been published, mostly in foreign press and best known outside of the American mainstream media, it is clear the Obama administration encouraged Turkey and Brazil for three months to initiate diplomatic initiatives with Iran. The encouragements included letters by Obama, phone calls to heads of both countries, foreign ministry correspondences during the negotiations, including at least one (acknowledged) phone call with Mrs. Clinton during the negotiations with Iran and regarding the details of negotiations. Turkey and Brazil accepted the risk of negotiating, despite Obama’s skepticism, and to Obama’s disbelief, the efforts produced a potential solution, or at least an opening. That is when the administration suddenly did an about face!

The Obama Administration’s current implicit policy for dealing with Iran appears to be the pursuit of further sanctions and forging of regional coalition to “contain” Iran - as stated for "background information" by "officials" and published recently in the NYT.  In fact, as has been reported in the Financial Times, Dennis Ross has now effectively displaced George Mitchell - essentially assuming the role of the mastermind for the Administration’s policies - in order to push a more hawkish policy. To continue this track, Laura Rosen has reported (foreign policy blog on POLITICO) that the Administration is considering hiring Martin Indyk to join the middle east team.

It appears that after initial hesitation, the administration has quietly increased its indirect support for a "soft" regime change strategy. A strategy that the British government, of course, is also adopting.  Doyle McManus’ column published in the Los Angeles Times characterized the current administrations policy as: “messier, more improvisational approach”. Editorials, presentations (at AIP, Brookings), and foreign policy blogs have made it increasingly clear that the Obama Administration, like the George W. Bush Administration before it, has decided build a pillar for a “soft” regime change strategy.

One may debate the wisdom and the value of the policy pursued by the US. However, to suggest that it is simply Ahmadinejad that is stopping the progress of negotiations is false - he simply does not wield that power. Moreover, to point the finger nebulously at "Iran" is simply falsehood. At this moment, both governments have strategic interest in maintaining the status quo - the average "citizens" have to bear the cost!

Sanctions are another arm of the "soft" regime change strategy. To the extent that it is effective, its intended purpose is to sow discord and discontent - a complement to the system of broadcasts from outside Iran and the use of "pressure elements" on the borders of Iran. Sanctions rarely, if ever, have substantial impact on the elite.

Jay / November 24, 2010 5:35 PM


The U.S. laws are that sweeping. Have been for about 30 years now. More countries are now beginning to pass similar restrictions.

But, to your arguement that it's sanctions or have no response.

History has taught us that the best response is to have free trade. That's a substantial response. That's a response that has ensured peace amongst people since forever. There has never been a war between 2 countries that have free trade with each other.

There are many obvious reasons why free trade between 2 countries prevents war. inter-dependence, exchange of ideas, etc.

The only thing we know with certainty is that these sanctions, and sanctions in general, will produce the exact opposite of the desired result.

The only way to stop the IRI from producing a nuclear weapon is to allow free trade. Allowing free trade will probably end the IRI. As allowing free trade has ended countless other regimes.

Why do you think Ahmadinejad tried to claim that capitalism is dead and his authoritarianism is the future of the world?...He and the mullahs are far more fearful of free trade than they are of any sanctions.

muhammad billy bob / November 24, 2010 8:54 PM

The sanctions are a prelude to war on Iran by the US through right wing Israeli manipulations. Even if Obama doesn't attack, the next president will probably do it. It is amazing and sad how the US foreign policy is dictated by the Israeli right. If it were not because of the GWB's axis of evil and other wars the Khatami reforms would not have stalled the way that they did. The government of Iran is like a caged animal that is surrounded by all sides by hostile forces. This has fed the ascendancy of the AN and his military cohorts.

Ali / November 25, 2010 7:25 AM

Another article by the closet regime lobbyist and apologist. By now it should be crystal clear to any outside observer that Mousavists are nothing but another wing of the regime who are just after money and power and have no interest in freedom, equality and democracy.

The real opposition to the Mullahs regime of corruption, theft and terror have no problems with sanctions. If there is a criticism, it is that these sanctions are too puny! The regime uses oil money to pay its thugs, terrorists and supporters inside and abroad.

The fastest way to help the Iranians gain their freedom by overthrowing the regime is to boycott its oil exports. An oil embargo against he regime will lead to its downfall within weeks. The rapid end to the Islamist regime and resulting free and democratic Iran, vastly outweighs the temporary spike in the price of oil.

Maziar Irani / November 25, 2010 9:34 AM

Another comment by Maziar Irani, a khaen bivatan who wants war and destruction on a nation that he supposedly considers as his native land, and attacks those who do not want them.

I suggest that you, Moshe Israeli, move to Iran so that when your oil embargo and war are brought onto the Iranian people, you will be with them and share their pain and suffering. That is the minimum you can do to show your "patriotism" during the "temporary" period.

Whatever Sahimi is, apparently you are addicted to his articles and those of others on this website, because you come back here to read them. Why don't you read the articles on Iran by neoconservative, by Mojahedin, by Israel lobby, etc., your natural soul mates?

To paraphrase what Lloyd Bentsen, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, told Dan Quayle, his Republican counterpart in the 1988 debate:

I know Maziar who was Irani. I have read about him. You are neither a Maziar nor Irani!!

Vaez / November 25, 2010 7:50 PM

Unlike the Islamists who regularly post and comment here, my family lives in Iran and I live there most of the time.

Majority of Iranians have lived under poverty line for too many years, as is common knowledge. They are in effect sanctioned by the regime, whose policies have increased inflation and cost of living by 3 orders of magnitude, while wages have not kept up and ENTITLEMENTS (THESE ARE NOT SUBSIDIES) are cut.

The majority of Iranians are not affected by sanctions because they are already sanctioned by the regime. The majority of the REAL opposition to the regime are for REAL SANCTIONS that can cripple and weaken the regime and its thugs.

As long as this regime can export oil, it can pay its thugs inside and its LOBBY abroad.

If the West wants a quick and peaceful solution to the removal of this regime by the people of Iran, then the solution is an OIL EMBARGO.

Maziar Irani / November 25, 2010 9:49 PM


First of all, I am not a closet Mousavi supporter. I AM a Mousavi supporter, have never hidden it, and will never hide it, so long as I support him. As my late father taught me, "either do not claim to believe in something, or be prepared to defend it and talk about it in public." That is my belief that I act according to.

Second, unlike you who hides behind a pseudonym, I post under my full name, and I respond under my full name. No one speaks for me, and I do not speak for anyone but myself. I am also not in the closet. If anyone is, it is you.

Third, an oil embargo will not just affect the price of oil for a short period of time. I will result in the death of hundreds of thousands. I gave the Iraqi example.

Fourth, in response to Vaez you implied that my family does not live in Iran. You are terribly wrong. Except for my wife and two children every member of my family and my wife's live in Iran. Ask your sources to correct their data! Vaez told YOU to go to Iran and live with your compatriot when your favored embargo takes place.

Fifth, writing under my full name has created problems for me and my family in Iran, unlike you who hides behind the pseudonym and can go freely to Iran.

Sixth, in fact, the regime does not care about your type, because unlike what you claim, your type makes a tiny minority. The regime is sensitive about Mousavi/Karroubi supporters. Just check to see who has been arrested over the past 18 months.

Seventh, how do you know that the majority of Iranians feel or think one way or another? Based on what scientific poll? I would like to have a link to a credible source that has carried out a scientific poll in Iran and found that the majority support the sanctions. For once back your claims up. You do the same on Iranian.com under Maziar58. There you also make all sorts of bogus claims, but never provide any evidence. Enlighten us.

Eight, as Vaez told you, you seem to be addicted to this website in general, and my articles in particular. If they are so bad , and if people like me are "Islamists" that you hate, why do you even bother coming here? Why don't you stay in that part of the cyberspace that is used by your type, and say what you want to say? Do not be under the illusion that your rants will change anything on the website. they will not.

Muhammad Sahimi / November 26, 2010 8:26 AM

I second Maziar's comments completely.

Mousavi, Karoubi and the rest of these criminals are all the same. They want to take us back to the "golden age of Khomeini". In that so called golden age thousands were executed, hundreds of thousands were killed in a senseless war which only Khomeini wanted and called it " a blessing from heavens" and the country went back to the middle ages. During Mousavi's "premiership" thousands were executed and he can not play ignorant and say he had no part in it.

The embargo, especially an oil embargo, would guarantee the downfall of this savage and inhuman regime. The embargo would actually avert the threat of war since the Iranians would take matters into their own hands and get rid of this murderous gang before there ever was any need for any war.
Iran is entitled to nuclear technology but not under this undemocratic regime. Say what you want, but this regime is aiming for nuclear weapons as the only way of insuring it's filthy existence. And you can be sure that the US will not allow it, not because they want to protect Israel but in order to protect the flow of oil from Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait. A mullah with nuclear arsenals a stone throw away from these oil fields could bring the world economy to a halt and of course that is unimaginable. The Us, if needed, will destroy the whole country with all its inhabitants to protect it's interests. So the earlier the mullahs are kicked out the sooner the Iranian people can breath without the threat of war and thugs at their throat.

You can not make an omelet without breaking an egg. Sure, the sanctions might hurt ordinary Iranians but the alternative, the continuation of the present Mullah Mafia terror, is certainly worse.
Those who advocate negotiations and such are just looking for a way out for this criminal regime.
During the unrest after the bogus elections (=selection) the majority of Iranians came to the conclusion that this regime understands the language of force only.
Any attempt to elongate the rule of mullahs is a treacherous act. The west should give the Iranian people political support so that they can get organized and form a viable alternative to the IRI menace.

Mehrdad / November 26, 2010 5:28 PM

Congratulations to Muhammad Sahimi on this article. It is accurate and comprehensive.

Foaad / November 27, 2010 7:41 PM

I have just a simple question to ask Ian and others who express much hostility to Iran over its exercise of its Nuclear rights under the NPT. Do they agree that other non-NPT nuclear states such as Israel, India, Pakistan should also be sanctioned until they sign up to the NPT and the harsh inspection regime imposed by US and its allies on Iran. If Ian, in particular agrees with this, will he then lobby the US government to stop vetoing any anti-Israeli resolution in the UNSC and not reward it for its belligerence instead of waving a stick as big as they are waving against Iran.
And can we not mix the issue of human rights abuses with that of a sovereign nation's right. As otherwise, we need to create a level playing field which examines across the Board the human rights abuses of those who are vitriolic to Iran's assertion of its nuclear rights as if they are suffering from some kind of psychotic disorder.

rezvan / November 27, 2010 10:07 PM


You asked for it, so here is my response by the numbers:

1. I said "closet regime lobbyist and apologist". More here: http://maziar.posterous.com/the-pseudo-opposition

2. The regime has a very long record of murdering, executing and assassinating its REAL opposition for the past 31 years. It is no surprise that someone like me can not reveal his or her true identity.

3. Mehrdad explained why the oil embargo is the most peaceful and quickest act to bring down the Islamic Republic.

4. I will be in Iran whether or not there is an oil embargo.

5. I see, the Islamist regime has rapped you on the finger for supporting their other unsuccessful Islamist candidate (Mousavi).

6. The number of the REAL opposition who were arrested, tortured, murdered and executed in the last 31 years are orders of magnitude higher than the insider pseudo opposition, who were jailed for a short while and are now mostly free. Thousands of REAL opposition remain imprisoned in remote locations.

7. There are no SCEINTIFIC opinion polls on Iran, simply because in a Totalitarian Dictatorship people are afraid to talk or express their opinions to an agency. I travel extensively throughout Iran and meet many people. The overwhelming majority everywhere, from remote villages to cities, are OPPOSED to the Islamist Republic regime in its entirety, lock, stock and barrel.

8. PBS is publicly and partially funded by the American tax payer. That is why I post responses to your bogus articles here.

Maziar Irani / November 27, 2010 10:59 PM

For all the gizillions of dollars that are going towards maiming people and funding wars - or possible wars as warmongering vatan foroosh folks like Maziar would love to support - I'm really glad that at least a few dollars are going towards a bit of sanity ... But don't worry Maziar, most of your $$$ is still going towards maiming kids and families. So you can go to bed at night feeling relieved.

Houshang / November 28, 2010 2:43 AM

These sanctions are somewhat childish and have unintended consequences for ordinary iranians. West should build relationship with "people" of iran directly and support them unconditionally to pave the way for a better future peaceful relations. This regime will not last; it just does not belong to this day and age, and could not respond to any needs of the new generation of iranians. The regime has had 31 years to show what it is capable of, and what we see today is the best that it is able to offer; and that is not even barely close to a fraction of what iran had in 1978 and still revolted.

Iran heavily depends on oil revenues for imports as the output of domestic industries and producers (from sugar and meat to shoes and socks) are significantly reduced compared to 1979. E.g. domestic production of sugar is reported to be 10% of what it was in 1979. This regime is so incompetent that after 31 years of being in power, it is now buying sick (wormed) goat meat from afghanistan and pakistan to feed the people.

Considering all that, one way to break the regime rather quickly is to deny them access to some $80 billion of income each year. That means oil embargo, but I doubt that west is willing to go to that length.

Shahab / November 28, 2010 4:25 AM


Although we could have had a good debate, your answers - mostly bogus and hollow - killed that opportunity! So, let me just respond to only a couple of points:

1. If there are no scientific polls, then how do you know how the people feel? You have a six or seventh sense?

2. Your data are again inaccurate! Tehran Bureau does not receive funds from PBS. It is only allied with PBS in a sort of publicity for both. But, even assuming that you are right (which you are not), that still does not explain your addiction to my bogus articles and those of others here!

Who is this REAL opposition that you constantly rant about? Over the past 31 years, between 12-18 thousands have been executed. So, Let us see who they were:

(a) Mojahedin: They believe in some interpretation of Islam, with vast majority of the ordinary members practicing Muslims. About 80 percent of those who have been killed were Mojahed. So, a very large part of the opposition that was murdered in the 1980s Islamist that you hate!

(b) Nationalist-religious of Bazargan/Sahabi type, such Ahmad Zeidabadi, Taghi Rahmani, Hoda Saber, Reza Alijani, Nasrin Sotoudeh....., and a big majority of those killed by Chain Murders (read my article on TB about them): They are and were all practicing Muslims as well - Islamist, mind you!

(c) The secular left, about 10 percent of the executed: Granted, they were not Islamist, but they constitute a small fraction of all those who were killed, but most importantly, as far as I can see in their writings now, they do not support your sanction and embargo.

So, again, who is this real opposition? If you are a Mojahed, then you cannot rant about Islam. I know Mojahedin want sanctions, but you do not seem to be one of them. Or perhaps you are a closet Mojahed?

Muhammad Sahimi / November 28, 2010 6:28 AM


> Do [you] agree that other non-NPT nuclear states such as Israel, India,
> Pakistan should also be sanctioned until they sign up to the NPT and the
> harsh inspection regime imposed by US and its allies on Iran.
Good question. The problem is that currently they would not be allowed to sign up to the NPT as nuclear weapon states, so these countries see a disadvantage and won't join on those terms. Sanctioning them won't achieve anything -- they already have nukes and would be out of their minds to want to give them up currently, although as I've noted here previously there is a lot of pressure on Pakistan to hand over its nukes to US control because of the fear of Islamists getting their hands on them. The best thing to do is to get them to allow inspections to ensure the material they do have is properly looked after. India, in particular, is doing this, having signed additional protocols with the IAEA. Maybe eventually, if other nations give up their weapons, they will do the same -- that is the best way of achieving the ultimate goal of the NPT: a nuclear-free world. Sanctions are not the answer to everything.

Also, one has to be pragmatic in that India and Pakistan, in particular, are not belligerent except with each other; therefore it would be extremely counter-productive (in fact, stupid) to make enemies of them over this issue (to put it another way, there is precious little diplomatic leverage).

Israel's position is somewhat unique because of its small size, and the fact that its Jewish inhabitants have deliberately put themselves in a position where they are (or have been) at serious risk of annihilation. Rather than wishing to add to Arab and Persian threats against them, instead I would seek to be fairer about it by supporting Iran's call from back in the 1970s for a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East; but the best way of achieving this is to get a peace agreement, which would include Iran recognising Israel as a state. Sanctioning Israel would only hinder this process, because of Israel's extremely defensive attitude towards foreign affairs (it almost thrives on being isolated, and has considerable financial and other resources to mitigate sanctions; in fact as we all know it has a kind of veto through the US). But as Israel continues to stall, and behave in a manner unbecoming of a 21st century nation with what appears to be a subtle policy of ethnic cleansing, other Western nations are increasingly moving away from a policy of full support to a much more pragmatic one that recognises the growing importance of other (Arab) countries in the region.

Britain has recently been signalling this sort of approach, partly because Israel simply shuts the door completely to any kind of dialogue on things like human rights issues. This approach -- towards addressing human rights -- has become necessary largely because the cessation of suicide bombings in Israel has put Israel's own actions in the spotlight. On the nuclear issue, its own nuclear programme would be put in the spotlight if Iran were serious about abiding by the NPT and if it gave up its weapons programme, and if it could bring itself to recognise Israel as a state. This would achieve a similar effect to sanctions -- just like in Iran, very many of the electorate hate some of the things their country does. However, Iran currently has no moral right to comment on Israel's human rights abuses or its nuclear programme, frankly; but that situation could change. That would be a much more effective way to get rid of Israel's nukes than by attempting to bludgeon them with sanctions, which would only help bolster Iran's much more intransigent (and very hostile) position. There are obviously also strong cultural ties between Israel and the West that make it very difficult to turn around and slap them, especially at the behest of a blatantly belligerent nation like Iran. The notion of a "friendly" state is meaningful in this context -- they don't blow up US airliners or fight against NATO forces via proxies, etc., so why the hell would "the West" put them in the same category as Iran? Be serious.

> And can we not mix the issue of human rights abuses with that of a
> sovereign nation's right. As otherwise, we need to create a level
> playing field which examines across the Board the human rights abuses of
> those who are vitriolic to Iran's assertion of its nuclear rights as if
> they are suffering from some kind of psychotic disorder.
I simply don't agree that you can separate the two. Governments that systematically rape, torture and murder people are clearly less entitled to assert "rights" of any kind: they are criminals who should not only be voted or forced out of power but also locked up to prevent them hurting others ever again. However, this is not really a legal argument but a moral one, and it has little value except rhetorically. I completely accept Iran's right to uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes, but this is not what they are doing, and I am bored of people claiming otherwise and coming up with silly arguments about supposedly "illegal" UNSC actions and other conspiracy theories. Iran, and some Iranians, live in a fantasy world where they scream loudly about any supposed infractions of laws they don't acknowledge, let alone respect.

Ian / November 28, 2010 9:07 AM

Congratualations !!!! Comprehensive article..

I admire the conclusion "Those who claim to be supporters of the Green Movement, but also support the sanctions, have a hidden agenda".

I was just reading the EnduringAmerica.com blog...
which tends to be the voice of the opperessed people in Iran,( in fact, there are oppression, gross human rights violations in Iran, which does not need exagerated) and yet are ardent supporter of Sanctions on Iran...

the blog does not loss any point in encouraging the sanctions regime... when i once challenged him the conditions of the sanctions and that it harms the normal citezens of Iran... the blog owner answered to me ..

"I have a mixed feelings towards the sanctions, i dont support a sweeping sanctions, but i support sanctions regime that targets the regime"...

when i asked him, that even the targeted sanctions regime are harming the middle class, and there are no evidence that they have caused any meaningful pressure to the regime and it indeed caused problems iran's democratic movement to whihc iran's ultimate democratic institutions depend... he coul not comment... indeed, he could not classify what constitutes sweeping and targeted sanctions and could not comment on whether the sanctions are going to produce " Unintended Consequences" ...

Indeeed, mindfull of the violations of human rights in Iran, that he decided to use it as tactical begining, in the beleif that once you start, make it your prefered policy option, there are few ways and justifications to reverse it...

so, this is good article in my view...

Observer / November 28, 2010 11:04 AM

Those who support the regime in Tehran oppose any form of pressure against Iran, from military strikes to sanctions, and from IAEA demands even to harsh diplomatic words in some cases. In respect of both military strikes and sanctions, the claim is that this will hurt the Green movement and the people. I note that, in this discussion, opinions about sanctions have been split, whilst in respect of a military strike the vast majority oppose. This helps establish, in some measure, where opinion stands at the moment (always bearing in mind the internet provides far from a good cross-section of opinion). Dr. Sahimi's articles certainly bring out contrary opinions, and that's very healthy in my view.

Just one final point -- an oil embargo was impossible because of China, not because Western powers were against it. Whether it would cause a collapse of the IRI is entirely moot, and the case of Iraq certainly is an argument against that, and would support the general thrust of Dr. Sahimi's arguments. The trouble is that it is almost impossible to take any action against a country without affecting the population. My only hope is that Iranians understand the problems the West has with Iran's nuclear programme and can try to see through the fog of Iranian propaganda, without getting suckered into the equivalent Western propaganda (such as it is). Well, I live in hope...

Ian / November 28, 2010 3:11 PM

In the past Sahimi claimed his support for Mousavi was based on a need for a gradual change towards democracy in Iran.He introduced Mousavi as the eligible candidate to face the challenge. He tried to distance Mousavi from accusations mounted against him for the execution of thousands of political prisoners during his premiership.Today he declares a position of total support for Mousavi and obviously the islamic republic since the two are indivisible .What changed? Sanctions.In question is the existence of the Islamic republic. Where does Mousavi fit in an Iran without the Islamic republic?Sahimi should be praised for choosing to tell the truth.He is for a moderate islamic republic.His position clearly explains the presence of so many islamists on TB and the reason behind so much name calling of those who disagree with his position.A quick reference to Sahimi's history will reveal his support for the Green movement,his rejection of any leadership of the Green movement outside the Iranian borders since it would over shadow Mousavi,introduction of Green movement foreign policy as a hint to the west about Mousavi's course of conduct once he rises to power and his continuous attempts to keep alive the memory of the Green movement without which Mousavi is simply meaningless.Sahimi adds up beautifully and I commend him for it.

Sheyda / November 28, 2010 10:54 PM

The statement that "Those who support the regime in Tehran oppose any form of pressure against Iran, from military strikes to sanctions, and from IAEA demands even to harsh diplomatic words in some cases." is a tautology! Any insinuations about the reverse implication is an obfuscation.

Those who oppose sanctions that hurt the Iranian people, or military adventurism against Iran, do not necessarily support the regime. I am in full agreement with Dr. Sahimi on his statement: "Those who claim to be supporters of the Green Movement, but also support the sanctions, have a hidden agenda..."

As I stated in an earlier post, it is my view that the Obama administration had only a pretense of diplomacy. To achieve the goals of this pretense Obama had no qualms about undermining the indigenous democratic movements in Iran. Moral concerns regarding the future of democracy in Iran will not hinder the US administration's willingness for accommodating Ahmadinejad, if he "played ball!"

The latest wikileaks release is trickling in and the Iran revelations are extremely enlightening!!

Jay / November 28, 2010 11:32 PM


> The statement that "Those who support the regime in Tehran oppose any
> form of pressure against Iran, from military strikes to sanctions, and
> from IAEA demands even to harsh diplomatic words in some cases." is a
> tautology! Any insinuations about the reverse implication is an
> obfuscation.

I don't think it is a tautology, or that I was obfuscating in the reverse implication. My point is based first on the observation that few or no members of the "Green movement" (whatever that means today), and none of the Iranians I've spoken to on the subject, agree with the aggressive actions of the regime in respect of the nuclear programme. Even Dr. Sahimi, in his article on Green foreign policy which summarised and expanded on Mazrooei's statements, said it was "reckless", "senseless" and "aggressive", and he quite rightly thinks Iran should address those legitimate international concerns in this area by implementing the Additional Protocol, etc. However, by opposing the penalties (sanctions) for not addressing those concerns, one is effectively providing a kind of backhanded support for the continued reckless nuclear ambitions of Iran.

Now, I can understand that it's possible to take a principled stand against both sanctions and the reckless nuclear policies at the same time, but Dr. Sahimi (for example) also opposes the IAEA whenever it finds fault with Iran (to the point of making baseless personal accusations against those in the IAEA who make strongly-worded statements about Iran), and even condemns efforts to reach a diplomatic compromise with Iran, e.g. the failure to reach agreement 2009/10 was ultimately because "the United States was determined to pass a new sanction resolution" not because Iran couldn't agree a real fuel swap (he really should know better). Dr. Sahimi goes even further, having made it clear, at times, that he thinks the Iranian nuclear programme is (in fact) legitimate, despite international concerns.

My point is that, in effect, Dr. Sahimi does support the regime in Iran on this key issue, and if his views persuade any Greens to go along with him then it is to the benefit of the regime. He suffers from the Iranian disease -- paranoia -- concerning the motivations of anyone (including Iranians) who speaks against the regime on this important subject, and is (I think) afraid of being labelled a US stooge (and perhaps he has good reason to be concerned, after all Iran does have a habit of eliminating opposition figures including "harmless" academics). But if sanctions are bad, the sensible thing is to seriously oppose the cause of the sanctions, not just their effects.

Ian / November 29, 2010 11:35 AM


You can not claim to be interested in debating when your response to an opposing view is why are you posting here, go somewhere else!

Let me clear one thing up. An Islamist is one who uses (abuses) Islam as a means to political ends. That person may or may not be a Muslim. That is why I use the term "ISLAMIST" specifically and not the term "Muslim".

I am for EQUAL RIGHTS for all Iranians and Freedoms described by UNHRC. I am opposed to the CONSTITUTION of the Islamic Republic, no matter who is its ruler or president. It is impossible to have Freedom and Equal rights under such a constitution, never mind free and fare elections.

The regime in power in Iran is not a garden variety dictatorship that can be reformed by a proper election. It is a Totalitarian Theocratic Fascism. It is worse than the Communist Soviet Union. Soviets did not claim to be God's representatives on earth.

Maziar Irani / November 29, 2010 1:34 PM

Dear Jay,

Ian of Albion pontificates on the afflictions of the Iranian psyche in the manner lately made fashionable by the 'Iranian-American' sayan Sohrab Ahmari in Commentary Magazine, the neocons' flagship media vehicle (see: "Burying Uncle Napoleon", Commentary Magazine, July 2010).

Ian graciously informs us that:

"[Dr. Sahimi] suffers from the Iranian disease -- paranoia -- concerning the ..."

(Ian, November 29, 2010 @ 11:35 AM, present thread)

Like all undercover British historians, Ian serves as the perfectly rational, clear-headed, delusion-free counterpoint to our paranoid and conspiratorial states of mind.

A handful of examples of Ian’s profound secretions of wisdom on TehranBureau suffices to illustrate how sound non-Iranian minds function:

1. "On the other hand, Ahmadinejad and the Hojattieh ... [seem] quite happy to talk about their plans publicly: specifically, their wish to kill all the Jews."

(Ian defends the Jews from a second Shoah being plotted in Tehran. And most certainly not being paranoid. Aug 1, 2010 @ 1:06 AM)

2. "Iran seems to want to play with fire [by pursuing its nuclear programme] without understanding that we're talking about *the survival of humanity*."

(Ian makes a valiant effort to save humanity from extinction by a devilishly playful Iran. Definitely not being paranoid. Aug 24, 2010 @ 1:13 AM)

3. "These viewpoints [against a military attack on Iran] seem largely to have been formulated for the diaspora by the left-leaning Western press, which many people assume to be benign and to have their best interests at heart, but which is really just using the Iranians as a pawn in a game between West and East. [...] The argument against an attack on the grounds that it would hurt the Greens is typical propaganda of this kind, designed solely to prevent an attack because it would not be in Moscow’s interest."

(Ian exposes the sinister conspiracy by leftist Western media to deliver Iran 'gholombe’ii' into Russia’s hands by manipulating the collective perceptions of the Iranian diaspora. No sign of paranoid delusion here. Aug 19, 2010 @ 11:11 PM)

4. "I don't suffer the kind of paranoia that seems to stalk these discussions."

(Ian humbly awards himself a clean bill of psychological health. Precious little sign of egotism here. Aug 27, 2010 @ 12:49 AM)

Ali from Tehran / November 30, 2010 12:21 PM

Ali from Tehran,

1. Sections of the Iranian establishment have a well-known anti-Semitic bent, amounting to genocidal hatred based largely on the Nazi propaganda of WWII. Anti-Zionism or anti-Semitism can reasonably be said to drive their relations with Western nations (at least, that is what they claim), and it is perfectly obvious that their millenarian aims involve attacking and destroying (or at least subjugating) Jews for their supposed wickedness. They happily kill those even suspected of being Zionist agents, so one can only imagine what they would like to do to the Jewish population of Israel, for instance.

2. Nuclear proliferation is a real threat to humanity, as has been recognised by world leaders from Eisenhower to (recently) Hu Jintao.

3. The former KGB’s efforts to sow propaganda in the manner described is also a documented fact, their methods being well understood and the subject of a great deal of commentary by defectors.

4. There is a *lot* of paranoia here on TB, with people such as yourself, Pirouz and Dr. Sahimi having made many imputations of motive based (apparently) on the belief that everyone who doesn’t agree with Iran’s version of events is some kind of secret agent. Whilst it is perfectly reasonable to think that the US, UK, Israel and other countries are engaged in covert activities in and around Iran, the denunciation of any foreigner who has an opinion on Iran is really just a means of rationalising away conflicting views – views which are, by the way, shared by the vast majority of Americans, Britons and Israelis who are presumably not all being covertly employed by their respective governments.

In a similar vein, some Iranian commentators here have seen the hand of the IRGC or the Basij behind your own comments and those of Pirouz, Dr. Sahimi and others. When I say I do not share that paranoia, what I’m saying is that I simply don’t accept that assessment. People display patriotism usually because they genuinely believe it, sometimes because they want to – or feel they need to – please their compatriots, but only very rarely because they’re being paid to do it or are willingly doing it for free at the behest of the state; so the furthest I’d go is to say that I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that Dr. Sahimi felt himself under some kind of pressure to write “good” articles about Iran; indeed, he has said that an Iranian interrogator asked about him when torturing one of his friends, and we know that Iran has assassinated Iranian academics living abroad (so there is some justification for this view); but even if that’s true, if one disagrees with him (or anyone else) then one should only attack his arguments and not him personally. Even if someone is being paid to write false statements, merely claiming that’s what their doing is a form of argumentation which simply sounds ridiculous to those living in a (relatively) free society such as, in my case, Britain. Sohrab Ahmari said as much to you previously:

Unlike in your beloved IRI, the base politics of guilt by association, character assassination, and antisemitic insinuation will not get you far here. Let me know when you are ready to meet me on the merits of the debate at hand.

Ian / November 30, 2010 2:44 PM

"I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that Dr. Sahimi felt himself under some kind of pressure to write “good” articles about Iran; indeed, he has said that an Iranian interrogator asked about him when torturing one of his friends, and we know that Iran has assassinated Iranian academics living abroad (so there is some justification for this view)..."

(Ian, Nov 30, 2010 @ 2:44 PM, present thread)

You have outdone yourself, Professor Ian 007 of Albion. If you linger on for a thousand more years and excrete a million more rambling, lily-livered, badly-hedged claims and insinuations on TB, men will still say: This was Ian's finest calumny.

Ali from Tehran / December 1, 2010 7:53 AM

I merely claim that Dr. Sahimi is subject to the same pressures that any public commentator or journalist faces when pursuing stories or stating their opinion. Iran is noted for the limitations placed on freedom of speech, and I am not being unfair to Dr. Sahimi when I note that he must surely feel that pressure. If I were in his position, I am sure that I would feel it too. Your own comments are expressions of such pressure, just as my comments provide pressure (I would hope, positively) of a different sort. Whether Dr. Sahimi allows such pressure to affect his writing is another matter -- not one which anyone but he could comment upon -- but I do not focus upon such issues and would rather discuss the subject at hand. I wish you could do the same.

Ian / December 1, 2010 8:50 PM

I have known Sahimi for years. The idea that he felt pressure to write "good" articles is ridiculous. Sahimi is known for his blunt and fearless style of speaking and writing. He lost members of his family to the IRI, precisely because those who were murdered were like him, fearless.

Despite this, I asked him about Ian's comments that he felt pressure to write "good" articles about Iran. He said that he had declared to Ian that he would respond to him after Ian began making really obscene and baseless accusations, no matter what he says.

He did say that putting him, one of the most vocal critics of Ahmadinejad and the hardliners, and Pirooz, a supporter of Ahmadinejad and the hardliners, in the same category just goes to show how ill-informed and uninformed people like Ian are.

Vaez / December 2, 2010 12:39 AM


I did not say you should not comment here. You are welcome to do it any time you want, provided that you are polite and do not attack people personally. I, like everybody else, am subject to criticism, if they are fair and well-founded. I engage the readers because I learn from them. Very few people, if any, who write for major websites do that.

What I did say was that you constantly write hollow slogans and attack those who disagree with you. If your point is the IRI crime, then, yeah, we know that IRI did all that crime. The question is, what should be done? If the point is converting people to your thoughts, you have not had much success here and, so, if this is the goal, perhaps you should comment elsewhere where you can find more agreeable people.

You suggest oil embargo as an effective way of moving forward, but cannot respond to my arguments about oil embargo against Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of children. You seem more concerned about a "temporary hike in the price of oil" rather than what the consequences will be for the ordinary people. You cannot respond to the question of how you know that the vast majority of people in Iran agree with you. These are the points on which we could debate, but you refuse to do so.

One more point: you called my articles "bogus." Perhaps they are. But, unlike Iranian.com (where you do the same), the typical reader of this website is well-informed and can decide by himself/herself whether the article is bogus. No need for you declaring it, thank you very much.

What is certainly bogus, however, is your claim that you comment here because PBS is funded partially by taxpayers money, insinuating that TB benefits from this, which is 100% bogus. TB is an independent website and tries to raise funds from private foundations. So, do not worry about tax payers money!

I believe that what bothers you and your type is that I, a supporter of Mousavi and the Green Movement and a practicing Muslim, write well-written, well-documented, well-researched articles (which are, however, subject to fair criticisms, if one wishes to do so and do it fairly), and my voice is heard through a website that is now recognized globally as a good source of news and analysis about Iran.

Ali From Tehran:

Thank you. But, if I were you, I would not waste my time arguing with you know who.

Muhammad Sahimi / December 2, 2010 12:59 AM

Sahimi,"I, a supporter of Mousavi ...."
that makes you a supporter of islamic republic.Mousavi has never called for an end to ir.The two are indivisible.You need to explain yourself fully to your readers.Explain your position and your objectives.It is time for you to step out of the closet.

Sheyda / December 2, 2010 4:43 AM


> I have known Sahimi for years. The idea that he felt pressure to write
> "good" articles is ridiculous. Sahimi is known for his blunt and
> fearless style of speaking and writing. He lost members of his family to
> the IRI, precisely because those who were murdered were like him,
> fearless.
I would have thought that having family members murdered, presumably for political reasons, must be a very scary thing. Knowing how the IRI treats its political opponents (including those living abroad), and having witnessed this at close hand, surely counts as background "pressure" of some sort. And given that he is aware (since he has stated as much) that his articles are read in Tehran, and that opinions of him are thereby formed at least partially on that basis by elements of the state, it would seem that Dr. Sahimi would have to be "fearless" not to let that kind of pressure get to him. So in a sense you are agreeing with me that there is pressure, although clearly you believe this does not affect Dr. Sahimi's writing.

> Despite this, I asked him about Ian's comments that he felt pressure to
> write "good" articles about Iran. He said that he had declared to Ian
> that he would [not] respond to him after Ian began making really obscene and
> baseless accusations, no matter what he says.
This isn't quite correct. I criticised Dr. Sahimi's journalism because I felt, and continue to feel, that he has misrepresented the IAEA's criticism of Iran in the past, specifically by citing favourable but out-of-date statements by ElBaradei as representative of the current state of play. I also feel his other statements on the nuclear issue are flimsy and biased -- they follow very closely the propaganda put out by Tehran, to the point where Rafsanjani used one article (apparently without Dr. Sahimi's prior knowledge) in a sermon. I've challenged him on these issues; however, I have done so on the stated basis that I feel Dr. Sahimi is basically well-meaning if perhaps naïve, and I have not made any "obscene" accusations (in fact I think I have been shown considerable restraint in all my comments, given the many provocations from a variety of commentators). On the contrary, it has been Dr. Sahimi (among others) who has resorted to silly comments (e.g., here) as the basis for not discussing substantive issues with me:

Absolutely not. I will not [respond]. The man has an agenda, if not an outright agent of some sort, coming here to influence people with the agenda. Every time a website becomes popular with Iranian people, suddenly some "interested Westerners" show up!

I can only express my disappointment that someone of Dr. Sahimi's stature should choose to disengage from discussion on such an absurd basis. I think it's beneath him, and reflects the same kind of xenophobia that I have come to expect from others like "Pirouz" and "Ali from Tehran".

> He did say that putting him, one of the most vocal critics of
> Ahmadinejad and the hardliners, and Pirooz, a supporter of Ahmadinejad
> and the hardliners, in the same category just goes to show how
> ill-informed and uninformed people like Ian are.
I am aware of the political differences between Dr. Sahimi and Pirouz. To cite a recent instance, anyone who has read Dr. Sahimi's article Toward a Green Foreign Policy for Iran which reprinted some comments by Mazrooei, and bearing in mind what happened to the IIPF shortly thereafter (maybe a coincidence, maybe not), can see that Dr. Sahimi's views are at sharp variance to those of the hardliners. And if you read my comments to that article, you'll see that (in fact) Dr. Sahimi and myself agree on some things and that I am perfectly capable of applauding him when I find his articles interesting and informative (although he seems to find this suspicious too), in much the same way that (on other issues) he receives praise from those close to the hardliners. Political views comprise a spectrum, and those who are in agreement on some things can be in opposition on others. What I dislike is the tendency of some people to dismiss a person entirely because they disagree in a sincere and reasoned way on some points. It's simply rude.

In summary, since Dr. Sahimi says he expects everyone here to be polite in their comments and avoid personal attacks, I think he should lead the way by practicing what he preaches in respect of his remarks about me. Perhaps you could pass this suggestion on to him.

Ian / December 2, 2010 5:39 PM


I do not owe explanation to anyone. I express my opinion and my opinion only. If you believe in freedom of expression and thought, you respect it, while reserving the right to disagree with it. I do not ask you to justify yourself and your position, whoever you are. If I want I can offer comments, and if you are willing to - and it is your choice - you will respond. But, if you did not, that would not make you any lesser of a person!

But, how much more can a person come "out of closet" when he has declared clearly that he is a supporter of Mousavi and Green Movement? I thought that you already commended me for being so clear and adding up "beautifully" (see the comments above), or are you another Sheyda?

What you do not see to recognize is that supporting Mousavi - or any other leader for that matter - and the Green Movement does not imply supporting his every position. Even he does not expect that and has always said that he is just a "hamraah" of the Movement because it gives him the freedom to express his opinion, while it also makes it possible for other true supporters to disagree with him. I personally disagree with him on several points, as I will describe in an upcoming article. Stay tuned!

Muhammad Sahimi / December 2, 2010 9:56 PM

"What I dislike is the tendency of some people to dismiss a person entirely because they disagree in a sincere and reasoned way on some points. It's simply rude."
(Ian, Dec 02, 2010 @ 5:39 PM)

Shame on you, rude Vaez! Why dismiss Professor Ian 007 of Albion "entirely" just because he endorses military aggression against Iran and claims that leftist media outlets in the West, in cahoots with their evil KGB handlers in Moscow, have tricked the Iranian diaspora into opposing such an attack?

Don't you realize that armchair assassins and hasbara con-artists have feelings too? How heartless and xenophobic can you be, Vaez?

I, for one, stand in total awe of Ian's sincerity and reason.

Ali from Tehran / December 3, 2010 10:24 AM

Sahimi step 'out of the closet' is a direct reference to my key question.Are you or aren't you a supporter of the 'islamic republic'?The answer is Yes I am or No I am not without any window dressing wiles.

Sheyda / December 3, 2010 5:38 PM

Dear Ian,

My apologies for your hurt feelings!

The only instrument for your readers to know you is your postings. And, sincerity, as much as it is appreciated, is not a substitute for principled reasoning.

As to the suggestion of your "reasoned way", and based on what we have seen from your postings, I must say (politely) that the method of your reasoning is of a highly "selective" nature. Let me unpack this last statement for you -- there seems to be an inability to commit to a set of operating principles. Consult your postings on this site to refresh your memory.

Your "flexible" approach to "reasoning" has advantages, I admit. I suppose, within your paradigm one is able to replace the word "selective reasoning" with "sincere and reasoned way".

Jay / December 3, 2010 7:41 PM


> My apologies for your hurt feelings!
My feelings aren't hurt. I am merely expressing my observation that foreigners seem to be regarded by some Iranians as inherently malevolent. I don't take it personally, and have no desire to play the victim.

> there seems to be an inability to commit to a set of operating principles
You mean that I don't agree with you, so you want to set the terms of discourse? What are the "operating principles" that you feel I should commit to?

Ian / December 4, 2010 3:50 AM


Your latest words (Ian / December 4, 2010 3:50 AM) furnish the best example:

"You mean that I don't agree with you, so you want to set the terms of discourse? What are the "operating principles" that you feel I should commit to?"

In your world "operating principles" translates to "terms of discourse"!!

Let me be clearer -- examples of principles: nonviolence, non-aggression, non-occupation, non-discrimination, .... simple ideas! In the past you seem to have been unable to commit to these completely and unequivocally.

Jay / December 4, 2010 10:01 PM

> Let me be clearer -- examples of principles: nonviolence,
> non-aggression, non-occupation, non-discrimination, .... simple ideas!
> In the past you seem to have been unable to commit to these completely
> and unequivocally.

I don't accept non-violence as a principle of human interaction, because other humans don't either. The only reason people can imagine themselves pacifists is because, as Orwell put it, "rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." By "rough men", I count the police, who protect us all from burglars and other people who would like to hurt us and rob us. Pacifism is a fantasy, unless one is a masochist, which hardly proves the point.

Non-aggression is a similar idea, but more complex because it implies the person to launch the first punch is the guilty one, and maybe the other party is innocent. That works as long as one doesn't consider the provocation, which might include threats, blackmail, or other forms of non-physical aggression. I am not silly enough to think, for instance, that someone threatening my life doesn't deserve aggression, even if that only amounts to calling the police so they can be aggressive on my behalf by physically restraining the person (yes, "restraint" is a form of aggression).

Non-occupation: this presumably refers to occupation of territory by nation states, armies or militias. Whether this is justified depends on the circumstances, and indeed even Noam Chomsky recognises this. The Palestinian occupied territories, or provinces inside Iran, might be cited as examples of "occupation" in one form or another. I am happy to discuss these in context, though (since it is the one that most readily springs to mind, and which you probably allude to) I have already stated my view that Israel's actions are unacceptable to me, likening the occupied territories to a "prison camp" and describing their policies as amounting to "ethnic cleansing". Furthermore, I think "occupation" should include governance of a country which is not done with the consent of the population, in which I would include the government of Zimbabwe, Iran, and others -- despite the fact that those governments are composed of people of the same ethnic origin.

Non-discrimination: this is such a vague concept as to be almost meaningless. "Non-discrimination" in respect of what? The letters of the alphabet? Should I treat an "A" the same as a "Z"? That makes things difficult. What do you really mean? Should universities or employers not discriminate against people on the basis of academic achievement, for instance, as some on the "hard left" would prefer? I don't agree with that -- do you? Do you agree with discrimination on the grounds of country-of-origin, or are you now willing -- "completely and unequivocally" -- to condemn those who make such discriminatory judgments against me? It cuts two ways, mate.

Ian / December 4, 2010 11:52 PM

Dear Ian,

You once again very clearly demonstrate how your modus operandi leads some to suggest that you stand on no principles.

Allow me to draw a map in simple terms..

I suggested principles...
you suggested "principles" meant terms of discourse....
I gave you "examples" of principles so that you can state yours...
you wrote about what you don't stand for without answering the question as to what you do stand for - not counterexamples, state principles!

The words I used have generally universally agreed meanings. For example, you chose to ridicule non-discrimination. Maybe you do not know what it means and that is fine. But, a simple google search "non-discrimination UN" would have been educational. Incidentally, the principle of non-discrimination is a historical one!

The judgement of your views is nothing of a personal nature dear Ian - it is simply an expression of dismay at the fact that you seems to not have any principles that you can articulate! You appear to select your values to fit your arguments.

You do not need to agree with anyone else's principles -- state your own. Not examples please! Principles! Is there anything that you can universally state as your core belief?

Jay / December 5, 2010 1:23 AM


I probably believe in just the same things as you -- honesty & kindness being at the top of the list, I suppose. Of course, life is always much more complicated than to allow fixed principles to trump circumstances (sometimes it's a form of "kindness" to discipline a child when they're fractious, etc.), but as broad principles I am happy to endorse them. That's the short answer -- the long answer would involve philosophical and religious arguments that would be far too tedious and self-indulgent of me to put into writing.

Ian / December 5, 2010 3:05 AM

Dear Jay,

Please don't feed the hasbara TROLL, lest he carry out his implicit threat to become even more tedious and self-indulgent.

We have already a surfeit of examples of his honesty and kindness (mehrvarzi!) to last a lifetime.

Ali from Tehran / December 5, 2010 6:21 AM


Your latest words (Ian / December 4, 2010 3:50 AM) furnish the best example:

"You mean that I don't agree with you, so you want to set the terms of discourse? What are the "operating principles" that you feel I should commit to?"

In your world "operating principles" translates to "terms of discourse"!!

Let me be clearer -- examples of principles: nonviolence, non-aggression, non-occupation, non-discrimination, .... simple ideas! In the past you seem to have been unable to commit to these completely and unequivocally.

Jay / December 6, 2010 2:27 AM

Surely this is not the same "Jay" repeating himself?

Ian / December 6, 2010 5:04 AM