Sanctions as Warfare

The dictionary defines ‘sanctions’ as “restrictions upon trade and financial dealings that a country imposes upon another for political reasons”– A practice that in recent years has become a prime instrument of global dominance by a handful of major powers particularly the United States.


With permanent membership status in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), world’s most powerful countries have passed numerous resolutions imposing sanctions on more than a dozen nations, including the former Yugoslavia, Cuba, Libya, Somalia, Liberia, Haiti, Iraq, and Iran since the end of cold war.

When faced with threat of a veto or inability to gain majority consent within the Council, the United States has elected to act unilaterally more than any other nation or multinational body in the world. Over two-thirds of all sanctions since 1945 [1] have been initiated by the U.S., three-quarters of which have involved unilateral action without significant participation by any other nation in the world. They are often discussed and portrayed by American politicians and many members of U.S. Congress as a form of diplomacy and an alternative to war as though they’re not an act of aggression with actual human costs.

But countries on the receiving end of such acts along with the rest of the international community increasingly view sanctions as illegitimate and punitive because of the human suffering they tend to create and the widespread doubts about their effectiveness and legality under international and humanitarian laws. Restrictions on trade and financial dealings cause shutdown of factories, farms, and mines that weaken the business and professional classes of the society diminishing the power and effectiveness of those who would otherwise form the bulk of the opposition to any totalitarian regime.

It is a well-documented fact [2] that between five hundred thousand and a million children under the age of five died as a direct result of U.S. and UNSC imposed sanctions on the so-called “dual use” materials and equipments related to nutrition, health and education in the 12 years prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

But despite shocking proof that the primary victims of economic sanctions — the children, the elderly, the sick, and the poor being least responsible for effecting change in government policy, its advocates continue to legitimize them as an instrument of peace and a justified means of exerting diplomatic pressure.

Sanctions are nothing short economic warfare that infringe on the most basic human rights and the very rule of universally accepted laws and must be abandoned as the last sanctuary of futility in foreign policy.





Daniel M Pourkesali is an Engineer with an Aerospace company in Northern Virginia specializing in development and manufacturing of flight dynamics, engineering and control systems. He is a columnist and board member of the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII). He is also a supporting member of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), Persian Gulf Organization, and Iranians for International Cooperation.

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