• 5 September 2012
  • Posted By Joseph Chmielewski
  • 0 Comments
  • Sanctions

Sanctions punish Iran’s most vulnerable

While the Iranian government refuses to waver on the issue of its nuclear development, U.S. sanctions continue to get broader and more unwieldy.

The sanctions are posing new obstacles to U.S. interests and causing pain inside of Iran.  For instance, there are new reports that even American journalists covering Iran–already dealing with Tehran’s press restrictions–now must also deal with obstacles imposed by the U.S. government in order to get special permission from Treasury to report inside of Iran.

The real pain, however, is being felt by Iran’s most vulnerable citizens.  Iranians with serious medical illnesses are especially affected by the increasing sanctions, according to a new Financial Times report:

The tightening of U.S. banking sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program has had an impact on all sectors of the economy but is increasingly hitting vulnerable medical patients as deliveries of medicine and raw materials for Iranian pharmaceutical companies are either stopped or delayed, according to medical experts.

The effect, the experts say, is being felt by cancer patients and those being treated for complex disorders such as hemophilia, multiple sclerosis and thalassemia, as well as transplant and kidney dialysis patients, none of whom can afford interruptions or delays in medical supplies.

These widely accepted sanctions were drafted to explicitly exempt medicine from the restrictions.  But the exemptions are not holding up as sanctions escalate.  To export medicine to Iran, American companies must first acquire a license from the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).  And those licenses only get them so far, according to FT:

Even those with a license report problems. Importers say that despite resorting to various more expensive financial channels, such as changing from one European bank to another or using middlemen and unofficial transactions, medicine does not arrive on time or in sufficient quantities.

‘We hold a license from the OFAC, but our imports have dropped by more than half while we pay much more than before,’ one importer said.‘The exemption of medicine from sanctions is only in theory,’ said another. ‘International banks do not accept Iran’s money for fear of facing U.S. punishment.’

Indeed, after NIAC and other concerned organizations worked to press the Obama Administration to issue a general license for earthquake relief, 14 out of 15 banks contacted said they would still not honor the license because of the risk of violating sanctions.

Even with such extreme shortages caused by the latest rounds of sanctions, there are few signs that either side is seriously concerned with fixing the problem.  The Iranian government claims the status quo is just fine, again from FT:

The government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says international sanctions have had little impact on the country and insists that its nuclear program should continue. It has launched a public relations campaign stressing that 97 percent of Iran’s medicine is produced domestically — a clear attempt to prevent panic that medical supplies could be at risk.

The problem is, even if the medicine is produced domestically, the raw supplies are imported.

Health analysts say that although the volume of imports affected may be small in percentage terms, the products that are involved are vital for chronic diseases for which domestically produced replacements either do not exist or are not as effective.

Iran’s pharmaceutical factories are said by health analysts and medical importers to be dependent on imports from Western countries, as well as China and India, for more than half of their raw materials.

And so ordinary Iranians suffer as the governments in Tehran and Washington continue down the road to confrontation.

Posted By Joseph Chmielewski

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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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