THE problem with economic sanctions against any government is that it is always the ordinary people who suffer first and foremost. We saw it with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and we are seeing it again with Iran.

In Iraq, hospitals ran out of essential medicines … while key equipment such as incubators became unusable for lack of spare parts and expert maintenance. This was not supposed to happen, because UN sanctions specifically exempted medical and humanitarian goods.

But most of what was imported legally was diverted to ensure that Saddam and his … supporters should not want for good hospital care…. As a result of this cynical … manoeuvre, many thousands of innocents … perished for want of proper care.

Iran has not yet reached quite such desperate straits…. However, there is one big difference between Iran today and Iraq 20 years ago. Iraq’s economy was not in free fall. Iran has seen the Iranian rial depreciate in value against the US dollar by at least 80 per cent in a matter of months….

The Iranians are also claiming that even with the sanctions-free import of medicines and equipment, foreign banks are refusing to undertake the trade finance….

Further, there seems to be an assumption that this suffering will lead to social unrest and protests which will either force a government to change course or lead to it being overthrown in some sort of revolution.

As the beleaguered Iranian leadership stares ever deeper into the economic and social abyss will it not at last decide to prove that its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful, as it has always claimed?

Can the civilian generation of nuclear power really be worth such a rising tide of suffering?—(Nov 27)

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