What should I say to people who think the Iranian government is undemocratic and a danger to the region and world?
First of all, what is the nature of YOUR government and what is IT doing in the region and around the world? Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo, indefinite detention and torture, thousands of civilians in Pakistan and elsewhere dead in the undeclared drone wars... the whole "war on terror" has been a horror for the people of the Middle East and beyond. In the context of the history of United States in the twentieth century the past ten years is simply an accelerated and aggressive form of the role the US has played for decades: Iraq alone suffered through two invasions, a decade of sanctions following the crippling of its infrastructure in the ‘90s (which lead to the death of 4,000 children every month due to preventable disease), and then something like a million deaths during the completely unjust war based on Bush's lies most recently. Meanwhile, Iran saw its prime minister removed through a CIA-backed coup in the 1950s and the installation of an extremely repressive autocratic regime headed by the Shah up until its revolution in 1979.
Over and over again the United States has backed, politically and financially, the most repressive and retrograde forces in the region, whether the Shah of Iran installed by a CIA coup in 1953, the Mujahideen in 1980s Afghanistan (which gave political birth to bin Laden), Saddam Hussein and backing his war upon Iran during the brutal war their countries fought in the 80s). Now, with Iraq in ashes and Afghanistan still torn by grinding poverty and endless war, the US has Iran surrounded with military bases, demanding that it stop developing nuclear power. (The claim that Iran may try to get nuclear weapons is a joke: what about Israel, Pakistan and India, which all have nukes?) The hypocrisy of the allegations made by the US and its subordinate partner, Israel, is incredible: but what is more incredible is that anyone takes their allegations seriously, especially after they used the same tissue of lies of WMD against Iraq.
Second, if you want to stand with the women and men of Iran struggling for a secular just society, you must first of all oppose what your government would to do to add to their suffering. A US or Israel-launched war against Iran would in no way help the righteous struggle of people there to rid themselves of theocracy. Both imperialist domination and Islamic fundamentalism support each other and justify the other's existence: those of us living in the US must join with the secular justice-seeking people who have taken to the streets from Cairo to Wall St. in the past year and show everyone else that we don't have to choose between one oppressive side or another.
Take the quiz, and test what you know about the facts. Just because Obama and Israel (rather than Bush going it alone) are threatening war, that doesn't make it any less intolerable!
Isn't it a good idea for the US to at least institute sanctions against Iran or intervene in some other way?
"The regime's rulers have already filled their pockets with our country's money, so it won't affect them. It will just be the people of Iran who suffer."
-Hadi, quoted by the BBC in Iranians feel sanctions bite
In the lead up to war, governments such as ours first prepare public opinion to accept the “necessity” of war and pave the way for the dropping of bombs and shooting of missiles. The US and Israeli governments have been doing precisely this in escalating their war of words and deeds upon the people of Iran. For several years, beginning under Bush and continuing now under Obama, the US and Israel have claimed that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and attempted to get us to think that this is a) what Iran is doing and b) cause for pre-emptive economic and military attacks upon Iran’s people.
Haven’t we heard these phony justifications for war and sanctions before? Hasn’t untold suffering upon Iraq and upon our own people resulted from this propaganda? What neither our government nor Israel’s government will tell us is that according to international law, the supreme war crime is launching an attack on another country that has not threatened you and has not attacked you first. What our government and that of Israel are now engaged in with economic sanctions and assassinations (of several Iranian scientists) are, in other words, war crimes. During the economic sanctions imposed upon Iraq under President Clinton, more than 500,000 Iraqi children died because of the sanctions that blocked medicine and other necessities from going to Iraq. Secretary of State Madeline Albright famously declared that “the price was worth it.”
What further price will our leaders extract for their imperial ambitions? What further lies will we be told to justify the crime of aggressive war? How much longer before people in the US in large enough numbers stand up and declare that we will not be party to the mass slaughter of innocents in our names? What is critical at this juncture is that people of conscience stand up and make their voices heard. When people do, as they have done and are doing in the Arab Spring, in the Occupy movement and in the ant-war movement before the invasion of Iraq, we can change the course of history.
On December 31, Barack Obama signed a defense authorization act that authorized harsh sanctions that would for the first time target Iran’s oil exports (which account for half of Iran’s income). While the powers that be make decisions based on the narrow financial interests of the US and its hunger for empire, we must act in a higher interest. What is in the interest of the planet and what will sanctions, let alone the open slaughter with missiles and bombs, do to the people of Iran. Everyone’s life is precious. American lives are not more valuable than other people’s lives.
The Reality of Sanctions: They Mostly Harm Millions of Ordinary People
(1) Sanctions harm and kill civilians.
The U.S. sponsored sanctions on Iraq that began in 1990 lasted over a decade. These sanctions stripped Iraq of its oil income. Iraq relied on this income to fund the materials for infrastructure like sewage systems and electricity, social services and more. Over a million children suffered from malnutrition and lack of clean drinking and contracted waterborne and food-borne diseases. Hospitals were filled with children dying agonizing deaths and unable to receive medical treatment because the sanctions prevented doctors from being able to have access to medications. Currently Iran has over 18 million children who would be affected by sanctions. A quarter of the Iranian population is under the age of 14. This is a country that already has an intermediate risk of food-borne, water-borne and vector-borne diseases.
(2) Sanctions Don’t Prevent War, They Are A Foundation For War
Sanctions ban countries from doing financial transactions with other countries. The US has a history of maneuvering militarily in the Middle East as a way of forcing those countries to be financially dependent and interconnected with the US economy so that the US can profit from and dominate their resources. Sanctions are a way to weaken governments economically so that the US is in a position to launch war. Military intervention in places like Panama, Haiti, Somalia, Iraq and Libya were all predicated by sanctions.
In addition to sanctions, there have been targeted assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and a US surveillance drone was discovered in violation of Iranian sovereignty and airspace. Let’s be clear, no matter what you think about the Iranian government; the real aggressors in the Middle East are Israel and the United States.