Trump’s Collective Punishment of the Iranian People
In addition to his awful remarks on Yemen, Mike Pompeo made some not-so-veiled threats against the Iranian people in his recent interview with BBC Persian:
Well, remember, just so you remember, the leadership has to make a decision that they want their people to eat [bold mine-DL]. They have to make a decision that they want to use their wealth to import medicine, and not use their wealth to fund Qasem Soleimani’s travels around the Middle East with – causing death and destruction. That’s the Iranian Government’s choice on how to use Iranian wealth. If they choose to squander, if the Iranian leadership chooses to spoil it, if they choose to use it in a way that doesn’t benefit the Iranian people, I’m very confident the Iranian people will take a response that tries to fix that themselves as well.
One moment, administration officials will feign friendship and goodwill for the people and claim that they want Iranians to be “successful,” and the next they will threaten them with starvation and deprivation while blaming it on the targeted government. The latter is the language of extortionists and hostage-takers. Pompeo might as well be saying, “Why are you making us starve your people and deprive them of medicine?” It’s repellent, and confirms that the administration’s policy is one intended to punish the entire population.
Virginia Pietromarchi reports on the destructive effects that the sanctions are already having:
Humanitarian goods such as food, medicines and medical devices are in theory exempted from US sanctions. However, in practice, US restrictions on financial transactions between Iran and foreign banks are so tight that it is virtually impossible to implement the exception on humanitarian trade. In other words, even when Iran can find foreign pharmaceutical companies willing to sell necessary drugs, it generally can’t pay for them. This situation is a direct result of the US government’s issuing of harsh fines for violations of its secondary sanctions.
Read more: https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/11/iran-sanctions-medicine-jcpoa-trump-nuclear-deal-patients.html#ixzz5WTutrhV7
Many observers noticed the threat against the Iranian people in Pompeo’s remarks:
“The leadership has to make a decision that they want their people to eat.”
In other words, capitulate or your people will face consequences. This is the language of imperialists, not 21st century statesmen. https://t.co/Rn5ZiFrOMD
— Shahed Ghoreishi (@shahedghoreishi) November 10, 2018
— Bahman Kalbasi (@BahmanKalbasi) November 9, 2018
— Narges Bajoghli (@nargesbajoghli) November 9, 2018
Pompeo: we’re not punishing the Iranian people, we’re just denying them food and medicine until their government follows our orders. https://t.co/g0oPoDzcKY
— Ben Friedman (@BH_Friedman) November 10, 2018
— Eskandar Sadeghi ???? (@EskandarSadeghi) November 8, 2018
So what about the Humanitarian exception??? The administration, as usual, is talking out of both sides of their mouth: Mike Pompeo Says Iran Must Listen to U.S. ‘If They Want Their People to Eat’ #iransanctions https://t.co/SYaZRzYKAW
— Amir Handjani (@ahandjani) November 9, 2018
Sanctions are not the same as conventional warfare, but the ban on starvation is the same. You can’t intend to starve a civilian population in order to achieve a political goal. It would also be unlawful collective punishment.
— Sarah Leah Whitson (@sarahleah1) November 10, 2018
When a foreign power strangles a country’s economy and makes it extremely difficult or impossible for many of the people to be able to afford food and medicine, it is the foreign power that is responsible for the deprivation and hardship that follows. Pompeo thinks that “the Iranian people will take a response that tries to fix that,” by which he means some sort of uprising against the government, but all that this policy is going to do is cause misery among the most vulnerable people in Iran while entrenching the regime further. The Trump administration would very much like to shift the blame for the suffering created by their sanctions policy, but no one is going to buy their self-serving claims and the policy is going to backfire on them.