America should learn from their Iraqi mistakes

Jan 13, 2012, 07:46 IST | Arindam Chaudhuri

Woodrow Wilson once said that, "A nation that is boycotted is a nation that is in sight of surrender.

Woodrow Wilson once said that, "A nation that is boycotted is a nation that is in sight of surrender. Apply this economic, peaceful, silent, deadly remedy and there will be no need for force." Rebutting the same, decades later, Omar Bongo, former President of Gabon, argued against the use sanctions, commenting, "It is important to observe that when Europe or the United Nations impose sanctions... against a certain regime, usually millions of people end up being directly punished." With time, the very objective of sanctions has undergone a full transformation -- today, sanctions are used mostly for strategic gains than anything else. 

The United States and its allies are closing in on Iran! After a series of sanctions against Iran in the past, US President Obama signed into law the latest set of sanctions against Iran. Not only do the sanctions curtail other countries from buying Iranian crude oil, they also allow US to debar parties that are trading with the Central Bank of Iran from having correspondent banking operations in the United States. 

Post the latest set of sanctions, the Iranian national currency -- rial -- collapsed to new lows. The official aim of the latest sanctions, as cited by the US is to stifle Iran's revenues and therefore its nuclear program. Such a reason seems silly and juvenile! How on the earth would US do this when past sanctions have failed to rein in regimes like North Korea from developing nuclear weapons? 
Sanctions have had results quite opposite the objectives for which they were enacted. Human rights abuse and societal demotion were strongly visible in nations like South Africa, Iraq and the former Yugoslavia and went against the very objective of the sanctions that aimed at protecting of human rights.

The sanctions have added only to the miseries of their impoverished citizens. Sanctions could not overthrow any government anywhere in the world, especially in modern political history. Almost 1 million Iraqis died on account of sanctions between 1991 and 2001! Ironically, it has also been observed that most of the time, the regimes targeted by sanctions actually become stronger through corruption, black marketing, illegal arms trade, political lobbying and smuggling. 

Without the slightest doubt, the current sanctions against Iran are going to hurt not only Iran but other nations too. China, India, and a considerable part of Europe would face a dearth in oil supplies; apart from these nations, even other nations that have significant bilateral and multilateral ties with Iran will face many difficulties during trade. Undoubtedly, the US interest in Iran is driven purely by oil. Iran is now being falsely accused of attempting to make nuclear weapons. 

All in all, Obama should not forget that in such situations, a winner loses more than the loser! But then, for oil, clearly there seems to be no difference between Obama and George Bush.

-- The writer is a management guru

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