There is something more than a little creepy about Nicholas Kristof’s incessant interest in prostitutes — only out of concern for their well-being, of course — as he travels across the planet. But in his most recent trek across Iran, he abandons his obsession for a bit in order to look at the U.S. sanctions directed at the beleaguered country, which has suffered at the hands of the U.S. since the 1953 CIA overthrow of the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh, who had the effrontery to claim Iran’s oil wealth for Iran.
But “Pinched and Griping in Iran,” the title of Kristof’s column, at least is forthright about the aim and effects of sanctions. We often hear that sanctions, whether aimed at Iraq as in the 1990s or at Syria and Iran today, are “targeted.” They will only affect the powerful in the targeted country, or so we are told. At times the War Party’s line crumbles, as with Madeline Albright’s infamous judgment that the death of 500,000 children at the hands of Bill Clinton’s sanctions was “a price worth paying.” But is such suffering the intent of the sanctions or “merely” accidental collateral murder?
Here Kristof is refreshingly, albeit chillingly, honest in his appraisal. Do sanctions only affect the powerful? Kristof answers: “Yet one lesson from my 1,700-mile drive around the country [Iran] is that, largely because of Western sanctions, factories are closing, workers are losing their jobs, trade is faltering, and prices are surging. This is devastating to the average Iranian’s pocketbook — and pride.” But is that the intent? The well-connected pundit proclaims: “To be blunt, sanctions are succeeding as intended: They are inflicting prodigious economic pain on Iranians and are generating discontent.” Or more pointedly, from a member of a demographic that Kristof is always eager to interview: “’The economy is breaking people’s backs,’ a young woman told me in western Iran.”
Kristof admits that the sanctions are murderous. “I regret this suffering, and let’s be clear that sanctions are hurting ordinary Iranians more than senior officials. I’m also appalled that the West blocks sales of airline parts, thus risking crashes of civilian aircraft.” But he is not deterred even after the generous treatment accorded him by the Iranians. He stiffens his spine and declares: “Yet, with apologies to the many wonderful Iranians who showered me with hospitality, I favor sanctions because I don’t see any other way to pressure the regime on the nuclear issue or ease its grip on power. My takeaway is that sanctions are working pretty well.” That may not enhance Kristof’s standing as a humanitarian, but it certainly burnishes his standing as journalistic prostitute for the War Party. And note that there is no question about the right of the U.S. to change the regime there, or as Kristof puts it, to “ease its grip on power.” Sovereignty be damned. The powerful have the right to do as they please to the weak.
Perhaps the intrepid pundit would do well to listen instead to Iranian human rights lawyer and 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi, the first Iranian and first Muslim woman to be awarded the Peace Prize. Although an implacable foe of the present Iranian regime who has lived in exile since 2009, Ebadi is dead set against the Iranian sanctions. She makes her reasons quite clear: “The very stringent sanctions have really been a tremendous blow to people. The people need these sanctions to be removed for a sustainable life.” But then again Ebadi has relatives and friends in Iran, and Kristof is merely cruising through to assess the prospects for the latest scheme of the U.S. Empire to destroy Iran.
Let us be quite clear what U.S. policy is with respect to Iran. Here is Henry Kissinger writing recently in The Washington Post: “For more than half a century, U.S. policy in the Middle East has been guided by several core security objectives: preventing any power in the region from emerging as a hegemon; ensuring the free flow of energy resources, still vital to the operation of the world economy; and attempting to broker a durable peace between Israel and its neighbors, including a settlement with the Palestinian Arabs. In the past decade, Iran has emerged as the principal challenge to all three.” Kissinger is a master of euphemism as he shows in outlining aims two and three. He would have been a bit more honest if aim one were phrased as “preventing any power in the region from challenging U.S.-Israeli nuclear-armed hegemony.” No matter how it is put, a defiant Iran will remain a U.S. target until it is destroyed or a favorable regime, like that of the shah, is reinstalled.
We do not need to rehearse here once again the fact that there is no evidence that Iran is pursuing a nuclear program or that it has the right to enrich uranium for peaceful uses under the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which it has signed. That has been done thoroughly and repeatedly on Antiwar.com. But given the fact that Iran remains in the cross-hairs of an implacable U.S. and Israel, one has to ask what Iran can do. It can call for a nuclear-free Middle East. And it has done so, only to be rebuffed by the U.S. and Israel. What else remains? And what must the leaders of Iran be thinking after watching the fates of Iraq and Libya and the very different fate of North Korea. If there are elements in the Iranian leadership that want the bomb, then surely their most reliable support and spur to action comes from the policies of the U.S., whose cruel realities are praised by the likes of the creepy Kristof.