By Stephen Gowans
In his 2011 book Crisis in Korea: America, China and the Risk of War, Tim Beal writes,
The Americans, and their friends and allies, tend to have a disengaged attitude toward sanctions—disengaged both ethically and in terms of causality. Sanctions are, after all, but the modern version of the age-old military tactic of the siege. The aim of the siege is to reduce the enemy to such a state of starvation and deprivation that they open the gates, perhaps killing their leaders in the process, and throw themselves on the mercy of the besiegers.”
Later, Beal adds, “There are strong parallels between sanctions/sieges and terrorism: both inflict pain on ordinary, vulnerable people in order to turn them against their leaders…”
While Beal writes in connection with North Korea, Washington’s use of the modern-day siege extends to other countries, as well. Like North Korea, Iran is despised by Washington for its insistence on using its labor, markets and natural resources, not for Wall Street’s profits, but for self-directed development. And like North Korea, Iran is menaced by a campaign of sanctions. These sanctions, too, aim, as terrorism does, to make ordinary people suffer so they’ll pressure their government to change its policies to accommodate the interests of the besieger/terrorist (in this case, to replace the current economically nationalist government with one that will open the Iranian economy to ownership by foreigners and create business conditions favorable to foreign investors reaping handsome returns, albeit under the guise of building “democracy” and relinquishing an independent nuclear energy industry.)
The accustomed practice in mainstream journalism is to gloss over the effects of sanctions on besieged countries, or to insist that they’re targeted at a country’s leadership and therefore do no harm to ordinary people.
But in a March 17 Washington Post article, reporters Joby Warrick and Anne Gearan acknowledge that the sanctions on Iran are aimed at hurting ordinary people.
Warrick and Gearan write,
Harsh economic sanctions have taken a serious toll on Iran’s economy, but U.S. and European officials acknowledge that the measures have not yet produced the kind of public unrest that could force Iranian leaders to change their nuclear policies.
Nine months after Iran was hit with the toughest restrictions in its history, the nation’s economy appears to have settled into a slow, downward glide, hemorrhaging jobs and hard currency but appearing to be in no immediate danger of collapse, Western diplomats and analysts say.
At the same time, the hardships have not triggered significant domestic protests or produced a single concession by Iran on its nuclear program.
The impact has been hardest on the middle and working classes, which have seen savings evaporate and purchasing power dry up. Yet, in recent months, Iran’s fiscal crisis appears to have eased, and economists say neither complete collapse nor widespread rioting appears likely in the near term.
So, sanctions aren’t working because they haven’t inflicted enough suffering to engender widespread unrest and rioting.
If sanctions do produce their desired effect, and wide-spread rioting does break out, the public unrest most assuredly will not be blamed by Western reporters on the suffering produced by sanctions, but dishonestly on Tehran’s “economic mismanagement.” And aid will continue to flow to opposition forces in Iran, who will be presented as “thirsting for democracy” (rather than relief from the suffering inflicted by the United States and European Union) to help them topple their government (which is to say, open the gate to let the besiegers in.)
The Warrick and Gearan article’s emphasis on the sanctions’ failure to promote rioting, may signal that policy-makers are coming to the conclusion that Washington’s goals for Iran cannot be achieved by sanctions alone, and that military intervention is also required.
Military intervention, however, may not be an alternative to the siege, but its complement. US Air Force Lt. General Michael Short’s explanation of the objectives of the 1999 US-led NATO air war on the former Yugoslavia resonates with the aim of the besieger/terrorist. Explained Short,
“If you wake up in the morning and you have no power to your house and no gas to your stove and the bridge you take to work is down and will be lying in the Danube for the next 20 years, I think you begin to ask, ‘Hey, Slobo, what’s this all about? How much more of this do we have to withstand?'” (“What this war is really about,” The Globe and Mail (Toronto), May 26, 1999.)
The modus operandi, then, of US foreign policy is to inflict pain on ordinary people who live in countries whose governments resist integration into the US-superintended system of global capitalist exploitation, in order to create public unrest that will either force the country’s leaders to change their policies, or step down and yield power to local representatives of global capitalist interests (deceptively labeled by Western state officials and establishment journalists as “pro-democracy” or “democratic” forces.)
The only thing “democratic” about US foreign policy is its insistence on democratizing suffering.
5 thoughts on “The Siege and Terrorism”
I hope your right Neil,,for the sake of millions of Iranians and Syrians who would suffer and die from military attacks by despotic,crisis ridden imperialism,personally i wouldnt trust the russian leadership too much though.
The dumb politicians in Washington are lying to you about Iran. They are lying to you when they say Iran has a nuclear weapon program where produces bomb in one year. They lie to you when they say “it is up to Iran to reduce tension”. I was in Iran two months ago and I watched everything closely. The main problem in Iran is INFLATION due to sanction where makes Iranians very angry, not at the government, but at the dumb politicians in Washington and elsewhere. Iranians are surrounded by the countries where have been invaded by the United States and their terrorist pawns. Iranians will not allow their country to become another Iraq, Syria, Libya or Afghanistan. Obama will never see Iranians in the street to topple the government for them. The policies of the US have made Iranian people, including the opposition groups, more united against dumb policy of the US. The Propaganda on nuclear program and “human rights” tends to demonize Iran. The policy of demonization have been exposed to Iranians including the opposition groups, therefore, has united them against their common enemies in Washington and elsewhere.
One of the opposition weblog abroad was extremely angry at Obama for his latest NOWRUZ message which was full of lies, using Hafiz poems to spread his cheap political slogan against Iranian government which was back lashed. One “green” opposition wrote:
Shut up liar, Shut up liar. Don’t use our poet, Hafiz, who was not in power and had nothing to do with politics for your cheap political messages to deceive Iranians. Change your dumb advisors because their advices present you as an ignorant person. Your lies will not have slightest affect on Iranian population especially when you killed thousands of our countrymen through illegal sanctions and terrors. We are not to realize your LIES AND DECEPTION.
Please read the following poem which has been written by one of the “Green opposition” after hearing Obama’s Nowruz message.
Assume that I have planted this tree, you shut up
Either abandon this bad show or shut up
While your sanctions are responsible for our POOR situation
Then why do you talk about love for Iranian people? Shut up
گـیـرم درخـت کـاشـتهام مـن، شما خفه
یـا بـس کـن ایـن نـمایـش بـد را و یا خفه
تــحـریم تــوســت گــردهٔ مــا را گرفته زیر
وانـگـه سـخـن ز مـهر بـگویـی چـرا؟ خفه
باور بـکـن ز عـقـل کـمـی بـهـره بـردهایـم
هـرچـند گشـتهایـم از این هوی و ها خفه
حافظ اگر که گفت سخن، آسمانی است
لـفـظ دری کـجا و سـیـاسـت کـجــا، خفه
دانـی هـزار همـوطـن مـا تــو کشـتـهای؟
خـواهـم ز حـق بـه عـدل نـماید تو را خفه
از هـر طـرف بـه خـاک وطن چنگ میزنند
آنـان جـدا خـفه تـو از ایـن سـو جـدا خـفه
کِـشـتی نـهال دشـمنـی و بـذر ناخوشی
کـندی درخـت دوسـتـیام از جـفـا، خفه!
The only thing “democratic” about US foreign policy is its insistence on democratizing suffering.
Yes indeed; especially if one inserts the words “imposing and” before the word “democratizing.”
I know it’s unfashionable, but I always laugh out loud when I hear Americans (or Israelis) blustering about taking military action against Iran. If America attacked Iran it would be the first time, ever, that the Americans had attacked an entity which could shoot back and launch an excruciatingly painful and sustained counter-attack on US regional economic and strategic interests and (selected) allies. US-NATO won’t dare attack Syria due to its competent defense resources and Russian back-up; all of which exposes US talk of attacking Iran as little more than myth-sustaining prattle. (It’s highly unlikely that Israel will attack anything other than civilians in Gaza or Lebanon, or unarmed Peaceniks on the high seas, in the foreseeable future).
So unless US-NATO’s “International Community” can dream up a regime-change plot that will catch the Iranians off guard, the sanctions-inspired distortions in the global fabric of free trade will probably continue to harm Western economic interests as much as, if not more than, Iranian economic interests.
Black Rose, your comments remind me of the wise words of J.V. Stalin:
“What would happen if capital succeeded in smashing the Republic of Soviets? There would set in an era of the blackest reaction in all the capitalist and colonial countries, the working class and the oppressed peoples would be seized by the throat, the positions of international communism would be lost.”
A report from the University of Oxford indicated that over a million people had died in the ex-communist countries as a direct result of the return to capitalism.
Are the Iranians canny enough to realize that their travails are the consequence of US foreign policy, not the failure of the current regime? Would that realization give them the resolve not to complain and rebel against their political institutions and see their political institutions at least acting in the citizen’s material interest, although constrained by economic limitations, to mitigate the impact of the sanctions?
It reminds me of the citizens of the Eastern Bloc who were sanguine about capitalism and yet complete oblivious of the brute facts that under a capitalist system; the capitalists would fuck you up; bourgeois civil “freedoms” are meaningless without the economic protectionism from a socialism-like system; and the government would not give a shit about you.