Dumb sanctions and smart sanctions


Dumb sanctions and smart sanctions
by Ari Siletz

Even as the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act is in the works, undermining the Iranian uprising, two pieces of legislation have been introduced to the US Congress that appear to take seriously the fact that Iranians are standing up to the regime. Stand with the Iranian People Act (SWIPA) and the Iran Digital Empowerment Act (IDEA) propose sanctions that affect only Iran’s regime and not the people. Moreover they modify old sanctions in the communications technology area in ways that could help the protest movement.


The bill says, “It should be the policy of the United States to work to ensure that sanctions are clearly targeted at the Government of Iran and individuals within the Government of Iran, rather than the Iranian society as a whole, in order to avoid creating hardship and inflicting harm on the Iranian people.”

SWIPA would allow American humanitarian organizations or individuals to work directly with their private Iranian counterparts. Reading the bill, I can’t be sure if it means Iranian-Americans could send money to Iran for humanitarian (perhaps human/civil rights) causes, but clarifications will come as the bill is discussed. SWIPA also imposes targeted sanctions on Iran’s human rights abusers and says companies that sell surveillance or censorship technology to the IRI will not be awarded US government contracts.


To Paraphrase Jim Moran--one of the congressmen who introduced the bill-- when the early sanctions laws were passed in the 1980s, Congress didn’t mean to limit the exchange of information with private Iranian citizens. So exceptions were made for cassette tapes, telegraphs and such. Internet wasn’t around then, so those exceptions for weren’t listed. This later caused some companies to withhold Iranian’s access to web mail, instant messaging, and online news sites. The congressman says, “Given the tectonic shifts in Iranian society following the fraudulent national elections and emboldened democracy movement that rose from it, we need to move fast to make these sanctions smarter and more relevant to current technology.”The legislation he has introduced permits the sale of:

-- Tools that allow private Iranian citizens to circumvent online censorship and monitoring efforts imposed by the Government of Iran; and

--Software and related services that enable the Iranian people to communicate with each other and the outside world.

Here’s an NIAC web page with more info and a ready-made letter to send to your congressman in support (or not) of the bills. Also, I plan to write more letters saying that the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act ( IRPSA) may slow the progress of democracy in Iran, therefore it sucks.


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more from Ari Siletz

Expressive artwork and Good argument

by Monda on

Enjoyed reading your blog. I am passing it on.

Fouzul Bashi

Thanks Ari

by Fouzul Bashi on

You've been drawing very good cartoons. Lob matlab ro miresooni: Eyval :)

Ari Siletz

Many thanks folks

by Ari Siletz on

Glad you enjoyed the cartoon.


1. Don't know if Jim Moran cares; for now we are poltical bedfellows.

2. US companies cannot sell to anyone if they know the product is meant to end up in Iran. I believe IDEA will take Microsoft off the hook in this regard. As with any bill, it has to go through the discussion and clarification process. 

divaneh: Sanctions would raise prices even if sources are found elsewhere. So they will have an effect even if not universal.

Ramintork: Your approach in getting governments involved (as NIAC has done in promoting these bills) is superior to the idea of citizen boycotts that could become loose cannons. The parliamentary process is the safer and more transparent, for what its worth.




Great cartoon, great Blog

by ramintork on

As mentioned, your Blog certainly helps my earlier argument about sanction on technology that is used to oppress people in Iran.


Universal or Unilateral

by divaneh on

Well, smart sanctions which target the regime without hurting people are certainly to be encouraged. Would it be practically possible, is a different matter. But, would any sanction have any effect if not adopted universally?


Great blog

by Abarmard on

Thanks for this in time blog. I don't believe anyone can argue with smarter sanctions.



by MM on

Thanks for posting this news Ari.

Whether one believes that these two legislations are great or BS, or any other ones dealing with Iranian-American issues, it is important that we take action, e.g., by letting our legislators know how we feel about these drafts.  Or, let our friends at Facebook know about them, positively or negatively.  Take a look at the legislations and take action by clicking here:

SWIPA Fact Page in English & Persian.

IDEA Fact Page English & Persian

An old boss of mine used to tell me: "if you do not tell people what you want to do, they will tell you what you should do."


Thanks Ari, great cartoon

by Jaleho on

And I got the NIAC email last night as well, found all items on Jim Moran's IDEA great, and with a crossed finger for its approval sent it to Iranian friends who hopefully would have a faster, better, and less censored internet access in Iran!


State Department Warns

by vildemose on

State Department Warns Kerry Of "Serious Substantive Concerns" With Iran Sanctions Bill


Next week is going to be a big week for Iran sanctions, particularly on Capitol Hill. As administration officials change their tone and talk more about a "pressure track" in public, behind the scenes negotiations about how to proceed are heating up.

Read the whole story: The Cable



all us sanctions are dumb

by Anonymous8 on

mr. siletz, do you think "jim moran" or anybody else in Washington really can care about the people of iran? digital empowerment is absurd when microsoft can't even sell products in iran.


Smart Cartoon Ari

by IRANdokht on

Thank you for the post and thanks to NIAC for supporting the right bills. If sanctions are inevitable, at least they should try and make it work against the IRI, not to strengthen them.



Omid Hast

Nice cartoon!

by Omid Hast on

Sucking up the gasoline from the little green car and pumping it into the big car!  Very clever :O) 


Thanks Ari for sharing

by Bavafa on

I will stay optimistic that sanctions are setup in such ways that only help the Iranian society and their struggle for freedom. It is obvious that vast majority of us, Iranians, wish to support the current movement on the streets of Tehran and other cities and believe that "airtight sanction" will only hurt them. Of course there are powers in this world that benefits from the IRI being in power and would want to derail the movement at any cost, "airtight sanction" is one way to help IRI without having the appearance of helping them.