Précis — August 20, 2013, 8:05 am

Andrew Cockburn on the Failure and Ferocity of America’s Sanctions Programs

“We ‘squeeze, and then squeeze some more’ with no end in sight.”

September 2013As America prepares to impose another round of sanctions on Iran, Andrew Cockburn, the newly appointed Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine, speaks with the architects of America’s sanctions programs past and present.

“We’re trying to break the nuclear will of a hardened ideologue,” says Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a powerful outside player in the world of sanctions. He tells Cockburn that the aim of sanctions “is to try and bring the Iranian economy to the brink of economic collapse and, in doing so, create fear on the part of the Supreme Leader.” The ultimate goal is to precipitate economic collapse that will lead to political collapse.

“We grabbed much of Iran’s wealth and kept it,” says Robert McBrien of the sanctions the U.S. imposed on Iran in 1979, which remain in effect today. “Sanctions are the soft edge of hard power,” says McBrien, who directed the Global Targeting division of the Office of Foreign Assets Control for twenty-four years. “They make people suffer. They hurt. They can destroy.”

They can also backfire: “We have sanctioned ourselves out of any influence on Tehran,” says Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council. Parsi notes that the Iranian leadership has responded to previous sanctions by redoubling work on its nuclear program. At a Washington gathering, Cockburn speaks to a senior State Department official, a wealthy Iranian-American businessman who is confident that “the Iranians will respond to pressure.” Another Iranian in the group disagrees strongly: “You should meet my aunts in Tehran,” he tells Cockburn. “They are from the old regime, nothing to do with the government, and yet they are so angry about the sanctions, they demonstrate for a nuclear Iran.”

The tool has become a “machine unto itself,” says Vali Nasr, who served in the State Department during Obama’s first term. “It becomes a rote habit,” he tells Cockburn, “operated by a bureaucracy that is always looking to close that last loophole. Pressure becomes the end, not the means.”

Dubowitz outlines a plan to cut off all Iranian oil exports. “Countries would have to stop buying Iranian oil immediately, or their banks would be sanctioned,” he tells Cockburn. “Chinese, Japanese, South Korean, Indian, South African, Turkish, Taiwanese — everyone who’s buying Iranian oil would be given a short period of time to go buy it somewhere else, or face sanctions against their financial institutions. . . . We could take a million barrels of Iranian oil off the market tomorrow.”

Share
Single Page

More from Harper’s Magazine:

Official Business March 17, 2015, 4:01 am

Radio Hustle

Listen to the broadcast version of “American Hustle,” Alexandra Starr’s story, for the April 2015 issue of Harper’s Magazine, about how elite youth basketball exploits African athletes.

Official Business January 8, 2015, 3:57 pm

The Art of Outrage

We defend Charlie Hebdo’s right to publish its cartoons—and our right to critique them.

Memento Mori September 2, 2014, 5:33 pm

Charles Bowden (1945–2014)

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

  • http://www.DNotice.org/ Dean Jackson

    For those not in the know, Iran had operational nuclear weapons (range 5,500 kilometers or less) by the end of January 1992, provided to Iran by the USSR during the period of chaos that was the fraudulent “collapse” of the USSR.

    So why then sanctions on Iran, to the point of a possible total cutoff of Iranian oil? Simple, to increase the price of oil in order to support Russia’s massive military modernization program. On the flip side, by 2001 competition for oil on the global market was increasing, which necessitated Moscow tasking the United States to re-invade Iraq, this time to open up Iraq’s oil fields; the increased global competition for oil was threatening China’s economic engine, which is used for its massive military buildup/modernization (Russia intentionally imploded its economy throughout the 1990s to ensure Western investments went to China, since China didn’t have oil to export for foreign exchange. Before the economic implosion, however, Moscow first tasked the 1990 Iraq War for the purpose of taking Iraq’s oil off the global market, thereby pushing up Russian oil revenues higher than they would have been). Now you know why China is the major beneficiary of Iraqi government oil contracts.

    For those of you not in the know, the “collapse” of the USSR (and East Bloc) was a disinformation operation (under the “Long-Range Policy”, the “new” and more subtle strategy all Communist nations signed onto in 1960 to defeat the West with), and because Western political parties were decades ago co-opted by Moscow and allies, the West naturally refused to verify the “collapse” of the USSR. You never thought about that, huh? Imagine that, the survival of the Republic rests on the words of lying Russian politicians! You’ve been sold out, ladies and gentlemen, and the only thing that is keeping us semi-free is the United States Armed Forces, which Moscow is destroying via the never-ending fraudulent “War on Terror”.

    • darue

      another psychotic paranoid boomer with delusions of anti-communism endlessly running through your head. Stop playing spy-catcher.

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

April 2015

The Joke

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Abolish High School

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Beat Reporter

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Going It Alone

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Rotten Ice

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Life After Guantánamo

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

[Browsings]
Photograph by the author
Article
Rotten Ice·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“When I asked if we were going to die, he smiled and said, ‘Imaqa.’ Maybe.”
Photograph © Kari Medig
Article
Life After Guantánamo·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“I’ve seen the hell and I’m still in the beginning of my life.”
Illustration by Caroline Gamon
Article
Going It Alone·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The call to solitude is universal. It requires no cloister walls and no administrative bureaucracy, only the commitment to sit down and still ourselves to our particular aloneness.”
Photograph by Richard Misrach
Article
No Slant to the Sun·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“She didn’t speak the language, beyond “¿cuánto?” and “demasiado,” but that didn’t stop her. She wanted things. She wanted life, new experiences, a change in the routine.”
Photograph © Stuart Franklin/Magnum Photos

Acreage of a Christian nudist colony under development in Florida:

240

Florida’s wildlife officials decided to remove the manatee, which has a mild taste that readily adapts to recipes for beef, from the state’s endangered-species list.

A 64-year-old mother and her 44-year-old son were arrested for running a gang that stole more than $100,000 worth of toothbrushes from Publix, Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS stores in Florida.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Driving Mr. Albert

By

He could be one of a million beach-bound, black-socked Florida retirees, not the man who, by some odd happenstance of life, possesses the brain of Albert Einstein — literally cut it out of the dead scientist's head.

Subscribe Today