When it comes to the effect of sanctions on the Islamic republic all you have to do is simply replace Iran with Iraq. Then go look through the news articles dating back to early 90s, and you will witness a decade of futile sanctions policy which more or less destroyed the Iraqi society (many lives included) paving way for final confrontation, the 2003 Iraq war.
Of all the articles I’ve read on this topic, one piece in particular stands out. I would like you to read it and then think about the effects of the same sort of “airtight” sanctions on Iran. Is this not history repeating itself?
February 24, 2001
Our Iraq Policy Is Not Working
By Robert A. Pape NYT
CHICAGO— America’s policy to contain Iraq is rapidly unraveling. The package of coercive levers used in the 1990’s — economic sanctions, weapons inspections and the no-fly zones — is coming unglued. Indeed, this containment policy has not succeeded in its goals of ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction or ousting Saddam Hussein. The policy only antagonizes our coalition allies, and it should be abandoned.
After the Gulf War in 1991, the United States and its coalition partners put Iraq in the three-sided box of sanctions, inspections and no-fly zones. After 10 years, the record is mixed: Mr. Hussein still stands and still has weapons of mass destruction, but Iraq has not rebuilt its conventional army or acquired new missile technology.
It’s time to acknowledge that this strategy has lost any hope of achieving its most ambitious goals. Oil sanctions are no longer working. The sanctions began to unravel in the late 1990’s as Western demand for oil rose and as it became clear that Iraqi civilians were the primary victims of an economic embargo. Under an oil-for-food program, Iraq was allowed to sell oil and use the proceeds to buy food and medicine. By 2000, as world demand for oil rose, the upper limits on oil exports were eliminated. Recently, Iraq opened a new oil pipeline through Syria, bypassing the United Nations system completely and contributing some $2 million a day to Mr. Hussein’s coffers.
New weapons inspections are also unlikely to work any better than those in the past. After almost a decade of the most intense inspection regime ever, the inspectors still believe Saddam has secreted away thousands of pounds of materials, more than enough to threaten every Israeli and many Arabs. Even if we found them, Iraq could always make more. Since many of our allies recognize these hard facts, the odds of strong support for new inspections are exceedingly low.
Even the no-fly zones over southern and northern Iraq are not working. They increasingly antagonize our allies, anger our rivals, and cause diplomatic problems throughout the Arab world at a moment of heightened conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
The problem is simple. Every time Saddam Hussein improves his air defenses, the United States must attack them or accept greater danger to American pilots on routine air patrols. Indeed, since January 1999, the United States has carried out more than 190 air attacks on Iraq.
Our allies never agreed to weekly bombing runs, and many have had their fill. France and Turkey have questioned the latest air strikes and the legality of no-fly zones, which are not under United Nations authority. Turkey’s reaction is important, because it provides the key air base for the northern no-fly zone. The coalition that has held together since the Gulf war is in danger of coming apart.
Given these facts, shouldn’t we try something else? American leverage is fast eroding. The United States should therefore stop pursuing the futile goals of weakening Mr. Hussein’s rule and ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. Instead, we must concentrate on keeping the coalition together. That means finding something we can all agree on, and that means maintaining American forces in the region to deter Iraqi aggression over the long haul. Maybe then, instead of conducting bombing that does little but barely maintain the status quo, we will have international support when, and if, a real crisis erupts that requires our immediate intervention.