Home/Daniel Larison/Stop the Collective Punishment of the Iranian People

Stop the Collective Punishment of the Iranian People

Bobby Ghosh wants the U.S. to “stay the course” in its destructive Iran policy:

For critics of the Trump administration’s Iran policy, all this is reason enough to declare the “maximum pressure” campaign a failure. But it is too soon to draw that conclusion.

Sanctions are a long game, and the fact that Iran is feeling economic pain is reason enough to persist with them. If a year or two of double-digit GDP shrinkage and hyperinflation aren’t enough to persuade the regime to alter its behavior, then four or five years might.

If Iran were made to endure “four or five years” of such deteriorating conditions, we should expect Iranian government behavior to change, but not in the way that Ghosh wants. As Iran’s responses to U.S. provocations over the last few months have shown, increasing pressure has been met with increased combativeness and defiance. The longer that this impasse continues, the greater the chance there is that there will be an incident that sparks a war. The U.S. and Iran have already come very close to getting into a shooting war as a result of this bankrupt policy. Persisting in the same folly for even another year or two runs the risk of triggering such a war. It doesn’t help that there are obviously many inside the administration that are trying to get the war started. Ghosh won’t acknowledge this, but trying to extract a few extra concessions from Iran isn’t worth the potential hazards that come from continuing this policy. The administration’s policy was absurd from the start because it was seeking concessions it couldn’t get and wouldn’t be worth the cost even if it did.

Pouya Alimagham recently explained in an article for TAC why fighting a war with Iran would be much more difficult than Iran hawks believe:

In other words, if Iran fought so stubbornly under such dire circumstances during the ’80s, it will only fight more effectively today.

Iran’s war with Iraq should also show that their government has proven itself capable of enduring a long period of deprivation and armed conflict, and they are very unlikely to give in to unjustified U.S. economic warfare after a few years. When the administration that is waging economic war on them can’t be trusted and already violated the last agreement they made with the U.S., they have more reasons to be defiant. No government responds well to being strangled economically and threatened.

Meanwhile, the costs for the Iranian people keep adding up. Economic contraction and hyperinflation mean that tens of millions of people are suffering from declines in wages, disappearing savings, job losses, and a skyrocketing cost of living. On top of all that, there are the shortages in medicine that deprive sick people of their treatment. There are no changes in regime behavior that are worth inflicting such widespread suffering on innocent people, and those changes aren’t going to happen anyway. Persisting in this cruel and unjust policy punishes ordinary Iranians most of all. This is collective punishment, it is wrong, and it has to be stopped. Trump’s Iran policy is failing on its own terms, but it should never have been attempted.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

leave a comment