Last week, the U.S took a page out of its well-worn foreign policy playbook and imposed new sanctions on North Korea. The similarities between the U.S approach to North Korea and Iran are striking, centering on a strategy of sanctions, isolation, and containment.

It can be argued that the U.S has had more success isolating North Korea — though a lot of the responsibility for that also lies with Kim Jong Il (something the hardliners in Tehran should be aware of).  But there is one crucial difference in trying to apply this same model of containment and isolation to Iran, and that is Tehran’s indispensable geostrategic importance.

The Persian Gulf is and will continue to be perhaps the most vital region in the world. Iran is the world’s fourth largest oil producer, thereby providing the government substantial oil revenue, and giving them a key opportunity to ensure that sanctions never fully seal off the country’s economy, as there will also be a buyer for Iranian oil.

For that and other reasons, a policy that depends on isolation and  containment as the sole approach for dealing with Iran is doomed to fail.

By looking into the history of sanctions imposed on Iran, and by spending time in Iran, it’s not difficult to realize that sanctions are not as persuasive as many in Washington might like to believe. Under nearly three decades of sanctions, Iran went from having no enrichment capacity, to creating an indigenous reactor and installing more than 8000 centrifuges. Three rounds of international sanctions did not stymie their efforts to build the planned enrichment facility in Qom. Sanctions did not impede the IRGC’s ballistic missile program that is continually evolving.

Washington’s motto: “Leverage through Sanctions” clearly isn’t working — and it’s not because we haven’t made sanctions “crippling” enough.  It’s because Iran refuses to be bludgeoned into submission.  If a country like Iran faces a choice between economic hardship and absolute humiliation, it’s likely to choose hardship every time.  But if given a chance to save face, it’s very likely that Iran will play ball.  Diplomatic engagement offers a better way forward than sanctions ever will, precisely because diplomacy offers a chance to convey privately all of the ways Iran stands to gain by acceding to the demands of the international community.  It will be a give and take, with concessions on both sides, but it offers a much greater chance of success than sanctions, pressure, and bullying.

What’s more, a diplomatic solution offers a long-term strategy, while sanctions — even if successful — only offer a short-term change of behavior.  Think about it: if the US can make sanctions so painful that Iran gives up its nuclear program, isn’t it likely that future generations will resent that outside pressure being forced upon their country?  Throughout history, this pattern of behavior has given rise to nationalist movements that produce greater degrees of instability in the long run than the original conflict ever would have.

Alternatively, negotiated settlements offer the chance of a win-win, with no loss of national prestige and possibly even a net benefit for the country overall.

Posted By Shawn Vl

    4 Responses to “Leverage Through Sanctions Not a Long-Term Strategy”

  1. Pirouz says:

    By mentioning the “international community,” what you meant to bring up was Turkey, Brazil, Venezuela, 118 members of the Non-Aligned Movement, 56 member states of the Organization of Islamic Conference and 22 nations of the Arab League have that have criticized the latest resolution against Iran over its nuclear power program. Right, Shawn?

    Taking sides against the majority of Iranians inside Iran over their expressed support for the Islamic Republic of Iran is one thing. But probably no other issue in Iran enjoys such widespread support than does the nuclear power program.

    For NIAC to advocate the compromising of Iran’s nuclear power program is to go against the wishes of “the Iranian people,” which for some reason or other is continually brought up in advocating support for a marginalized political faction inside the country.

    Think about the contradictions, here.

  2. James says:

    Why not!…31 years of attempts at dialogue has not worked. The alternative to war is sanctions to a regime that wants to wipe Israel off the map!

  3. Pirouz says:

    James, you’re using a deliberate mistranslation.

    What President Ahmadinejad stated was “this regime occupying Jerusalem (een rezhim-e eshghalgar-e qods) must [vanish from] the page of time (bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad). What it means is the end of Zionism in similar fashion to the end of the USSR and the Shah’s kingdom.

    I challenge you to bring up a single instance where a high ranking Iranian leader has advocated a military first strike against Israel. But finding such advocacy by Israel leaders against Iran is not a problem at all- it happens almost weekly!

    And what dialog are you referring to? Back in the early part of the 2000s when Iran proposed a grand bargain? It was ignored. Or in the 1990s, when Iran advocated detente? Only to be wrongly blamed for what turned out to be an al-Qaida attack against Americans in Saudi Arabia?

    Your ignorance is breathtaking.

  4. Iranian-American says:

    James,

    Pirouz is right. After the way America was fooled into going to war with Iraq, you really should be more skeptical of such claims. While personally I oppose the current Iranian government for the mess it has made of Iran, the notion that Iran is such a dangerous threat to Israel (or other neighbors) is mostly made up.

    This is what happens. Israel threatens Iran by advocating an unprovoked military strike, then Iran says in the event of such a strike it will defend itself, and then the American media claims that Iran saying it is going to defend itself is somehow an aggressive threat. Apparently, unless Iran agrees to open its airspace to Israeli planes and just lets Israel bomb the hell out of Iran (and we’ve seen just how careful Israel is with civilian lives in Gaza and Lebanon), Iran is being the aggressor.

    Israel is the most dangerous country in the middle east. It has the most military power and it has demonstrated time and time again its willingness to use it with no consideration for the loss of innocent life.

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Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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