Time for behavior adjustment – Ours

I was encouraged by the title of Trita Parsi’s latest commentary ‘Why diplomacy and sanctions don’t mix’ only to be disappointed by the narrative which unfortunately gives credence to the prevailing attitude in the United States that we alone hold the moral high ground to arbitrarily subject any country we choose to punitive sanctions for our own self interest.

Over two-thirds of all sanctions since 1945 have been initiated by the U.S., three-quarters of which have involved unilateral action without significant participation by any other country. They are often discussed and portrayed as a form of diplomacy and an alternative to war even though they’re no less an act of aggression with very heavy human costs.

Instead of categorically accepting the ‘carrot and stick’ scheme as an appropriate foreign policy tool and engaging in the ‘politically correct’ argument over which should come first, we should expose the futility of this barbaric practice as an appallingly ineffective instrument in modifying the conduct of the governments it targets and reveal the horrible human suffering it creates. Over five hundred thousand children under the age of five perished 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.

Any self-respecting person of Iranian heritage should be outraged by the fact that similar sanctions are now under consideration and several have already been imposed on Iran through coercion for engaging in a legitimate activity under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) let alone advise the incoming president to use them as some kind of leverage that can be done away with “in return for significant behavioral changes”.

Article 4 of the NPT states that “Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all Parties to the Treaty to develop, research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purpose” and there are no mentions of ‘bad behavior’ in the United Nations Charter as grounds for subjecting a country to disciplinary action. Article 39 of the UN Charter provides that the Security Council can take punitive action against a member state only if it finds that a ‘threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression’ exists, otherwise imposition of such sanctions are against internationally accepted laws.

Forcing Iran to give up its right under the NPT while granting a pass to nuclear powered states to continue violating the terms of Articles 1, 3, 4 and 6, is an abuse of power by the United Nations and in clear violation of its own Charter.

To succeed with his pro-diplomacy agenda, president-elect Barack Obama must give up all attempts at gaining any leverage over Iran through sanctions because no “combination of incentives and disincentives” or any meaningful negotiation to resolve differences can even begin until all illegal sanctions already imposed are removed and Iran’s nuclear dossier is returned to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Many of us who voted for Obama saw him as someone who could finally restore America’s tarnished global image, but real change can only come in form of altering that old supercilious Washington mindset and prevent it from transitioning to the new administration.

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