Will trade sanctions work against Iran, as they did against Japan in 1941?
This is a follow-up to my 25 August post “Proposed legislation prepares the way for war with Iran! I believe in that post I underestimated the risks inherent in House Concurrant Resolution 362:
Expressing the sense of Congress regarding the threat posed to international peace, stability in the Middle East, and the vital national security interests of the United States by Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and regional hegemony, and for other purposes.
That post provides details and background information about this resolution. Before reading this post, remember the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, another well-meant but poorly written resolution which was interrpeted by Presidents more expansively than Congress intended — providing legal justification for our role in the Vietnam War.
This post focuses on one clause that looks quite dangerous, esp with tensions already running so high.
(3) demands that the President initiate an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities by, inter alia,
- prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products;
- imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran;
- and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran’s nuclear program;
Unlike some rather hysterical commentary on the Internet (Google it to see), this resolution not only does not authorize a blockade, it explicitly says
Whereas nothing in this resolution shall be construed as an authorization of the use of force against Iran.
The resolution demands economic sanctions, of the type the UN requested against South Africa during its apartheid days and imposed on Iraq after the Gulf War. Cutting off Iran’s imports of refined products is a serious measure. If implemented, this might force Iran to either fold their cards — or strike back hard.
Japan’s response to a similar measure in 1941 was Pearl Harbor. What might Iran do? Perhaps threaten conventional war. Perhaps vastly increase their unconventional and asymmetric efforts, helping Islamic radicals around the world. Even Sunni terrorists, in a spirit of pan-Islamic brotherhood – ”the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Foreign adventures — no matter how noble their intent, how pure their motives — often have costs. America’s ruling elites appear to have forgotten this harsh truth. Let us hope the cost of their education in these things is not too high, as we will pay it in both money and blood.
After a discussion with Galrahn (of Information Dissemination), here are a few more thoughts.
(1) The dynamics of this are complex. Not just the initial steps, but how the situation evolves. Strong moves, like the economic sanctions proposed in this resolution, often leads to cycles of response and counter-response. The text of this resolution needs to be considered not just in terms of today’s situation, but also what might happen over the next several moves.
(2) Sanctions could restrict Iran’s imports of essential raw materials and esp. manufactured goods, which is what gutted Iraq and damaged both South Africa and the USSR.
(3) Can we get sufficient international participation in a program of economic sanctions on Iraq? I find that difficult to imagine, but stranger things have happened.
(4) Failure of sanctions might lead to calls for more extreme action against Iran. That’s escalation, a depressingly frequent dynamic in geopolitics.
Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please), or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).
My posts about a strike at Iran by the US
- 4GW at work in a community near you, 19 October 2007 — Propaganda warming us up for war with Iran.
- War with Iran , 9 November 2007 — Why Iran is not necessarily our enemy.
- Is Iran dangerous, or a paper tiger? , 13 November 2007
- The new NIE, another small step in the Decline of the State , 10 December 2007
- Will we bomb Iran, now that Admiral Fallon is gone? , 17 March 2008
- More post-Fallon overheating: “6 signs the US may be headed for war in Iran” , 18 March 2008
- A militant America, ready for war with Iran , 6 May 2008
- Another step towards war with Iran? , 7 May 2008 — About Andrew Cockburn’s article in Counterpunch.
- “War With Iran Might Be Closer Than You Think” , 13 May 2008 — About Philip Giraldi’s 9 May story in The American Conservative (see below).
- The most expensive psy-war campaign - ever! , 13 July 2008
- ISIS: “Can Military Strikes Destroy Iran’s Gas Centrifuge Program? Probably Not.”, 8 August 2008
Here is the full archive of my posts about a possible strike at Iran by Israel or the US.