By Sharmine Narwani
“Tehran has developed technical expertise in a number of areas—including uranium enrichment, nuclear reactors, and ballistic missiles—from which it could draw if it decided to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons,” reads Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper’s April 2013 report to the Senate Committee on Armed Services.
Then comes the statement usually ignored by mass media: “We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”
The fact that Iran is not producing a nuclear bomb – nay, hasn’t even decided if it wants to – has not deterred the US government from slapping the Islamic Republic with the most punishing unilateral sanctions in history.
While the Iranian economy struggles to adjust to periodic US sanctions “upgrades”, a significantly devalued currency and restrictions in global financial transactions have suddenly challenged even Iran’s famed adaptability to these kinds of externally-imposed pressures.
But something is awry. There is no implosion in Iran. How is that possible with off-the-chart hikes in the price of basic goods, unaffordable housing in congested urban areas, increased youth unemployment? Instead, Iranians who love nothing better than to complain about government and economy, have grumpily rallied against these foreign efforts to pit population against state.
According to results of a Gallup poll in February, 85% of Iranians claim sanctions have hurt their livelihood either “a great deal” or “somewhat.” But 70% of those polled blame external parties (the US, western European countries, Israel and the UN) for this suffering; remarkably, only 10% blame their government and their leaders. Instead of sanctions forcing a change in Iran’s calculation about pursuing nuclear enrichment – which is a stated US goal – 65% of Iranians favor a continuation of the country’s nuclear power capabilities.
As former head of the International Energy and Atomic Agency (IAEA) Mohamed El Baradei astutely observed before leaving his 11-year post: “The line was, ‘Iran will buckle under pressure.’ But this issue has become so ingrained in the Iranian soul as a matter of national pride. They talk about their nuclear program as if they had gone to the moon.”
Instead of changing tack and identifying novel new ways to gain favor with Iran’s population while pressuring their leaders, the US administration went off the rails last week and upped the sanctions ante – targeting for the first time Iran’s rial currency and its auto industry, a large source of domestic jobs.
No – there can no longer be any mistake about what that means. Washington isn’t trying to change Iran’s “calculations” about “its nuclear program.” It is trying to break Iran’s back. (more…)