Sanctions on Iran

The US Arms Control Association noted in August that “The United Nations Security Council has adopted six resolutions as part of international efforts to address Iran’s nuclear programme.”

And as a result of being considered guilty of failing to abide by some of these resolutions, Iran has been subjected to a large range of vicious sanctions that are in the process of destroying a generation of children. These young people do not only suffer physical privation forced on them by the casual malevolence of the west, but will be affected mentally, too.

Following the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan it is more widely understood that after combat very many soldiers suffer from ‘post traumatic stress disorder’ – in other words, they can be condemned to many years or even a lifetime of mental disturbance and suffering because of their hellish experiences. (The suicide rate among US veterans is appalling.) But post-war psychological agony is not limited to what is caused by shot and shell. When groups of countries gang up to wage an economic war on a weaker nation, there are very similar effects on the youngest citizens of the unfortunate targeted country. They will experience – are suffering now, in Iran, just as they did in Iraq in the years before it was invaded – the dreadful consequences of vicious non-conflict terrorism. This is barbarism inflicted by denial of basic human decency in the guise of imposing international law.

Many Iranian children who survive will grow up with an abiding hatred of western countries, which they will rightly regard as evil instigators of their suffering. They will be exactly like the many generations of Palestinians who have suffered misery and persecution at the hands of Israeli apartheid. Western nations have imposed a heritage of hatred on Iran, and will deeply regret their actions in years to come. It isn’t only children in Iran who are being subjected to international punishment, because the west’s sanctions penalise all ages, and adults are suffering grievously, too. As one medical expert put it, “More than anything else, we have a lack of medicines for patients suffering from cancer and multiple sclerosis…all because of sanctions against banks or problems with transferring foreign currency.”

So don’t be old and ailing in Iran. In fact, don’t be any age and sick in Iran, because your misery will be increased by the spiteful efforts of western countries to destroy your country. And the world shrugs and lets the US and its little puppets have their way. What are a few hundred thousand dead Iranians, after all? Of course the UN secretary general (SG), the honourable, decent and civilised Ban Ki-moon, says that “The sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran have had significant effects on the general population, including an escalation in inflation, a rise in commodities and energy costs, an increase in the rate of unemployment and a shortage of necessary items, including medicine.” But all he will achieve by his words is US loathing to the point that Washington will ensure he will not have a second term.

Washington chose him as SG because it was thought he would not even dare to whisper such muted criticism as he has ventured about the evil strangling of a country’s innocent citizens. He’s a gone gosling, but at least he is honest. Ironically, the sanctions against Iran have had severe effects on Afghanistan, causing devaluation of its already shaky currency and almost destroying the much-needed trade in a country that the US is supposed to be helping. But Washington has never been much good at forecasting effects of its more bizarre international frolics.

The chances of Tehran supporting any form of regime in Afghanistan that is approved by Washington are verging on zero. Why should it support Washington in any of its intrigues? The US, after all, has, among other military forces, two aircraft carrier strike groups menacing Iran. The power of these naval strike forces is staggering. Each carrier carries between 10 and 30 nuclear bombs and their scores of strike aircraft are at a moment’s notice to blitz Iran. Other ships and submarines can at a moment’s notice rain hundreds of cruise missiles on the victims of Washington and Tel Aviv, and hundreds of US and Israeli nuclear-armed strike aircraft are ready to pulverise Iran.

Iran is subject to the most sophisticated spying operations ever conceived. Its borders are ceaselessly patrolled by drones and manned aircraft gathering intelligence. Sometimes these invade Iranian territory and at least one spy drone has been shot down. Every Iranian code has been broken and all communications are intercepted by the US and Britain. The Iranian spies who work for Washington are going to be very rich indeed on CIA money – if they survive.

Iran is surrounded by US attack bases and there are over 200 strike aircraft based in Kuwait, Turkey, Diego Garcia, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. US ‘big-deck amphibious warfare ships’ carry 2000 marines, attack helicopters and all other war-gadgetry needed for invasion. But for the moment US combat activity is restricted to destroying Iranian children and, casually and quite by the way, penalising Pakistan which desperately needs energy sources and wants to cooperate with Iran in building a pipeline for that purpose.

But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announces that “As we are ratcheting up pressure on Iran, it seems somewhat inexplicable that Pakistan would be trying to negotiate a pipeline.”

The fact that Pakistan is a sovereign nation that urgently requires oil and gas and that the cheapest and easiest source is Iran, means nothing to Washington. It’s not explicable. So every time their lights, vehicle fuel and heating are cut off this winter, citizens of Pakistan can thank US-initiated sanctions on Iran for deferring relief. But they can count their blessings, too, because they’re not Iranian kids.

Aricle By: Brian Cloughley

Barack Obama’s tears

In the US, mass child killings are tragedies. In Pakistan, mere bug splats. Barack Obama’s tears for the children of Newtown are in stark contrast to his silence over the children murdered by his drones.

“Mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts … These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.”George Monbiot

Every parent can connect with what President Barack Obama said about the murder of 20 children in Newtown, Connecticut. There can scarcely be a person on earth with access to the media who is untouched by the grief of the people of that town.

It must follow that what applies to the children murdered there by a deranged young man also applies to the children murdered in Pakistan by a sombre American president. These children are just as important, just as real, just as deserving of the world’s concern. Yet there are no presidential speeches or presidential tears for them, no pictures on the front pages of the world’s newspapers, no interviews with grieving relatives, no minute analysis of what happened and why.

If the victims of Mr Obama’s drone strikes are mentioned by the state at all, they are discussed in terms which suggest that they are less than human. The people who operate the drones, Rolling Stone magazine reports, describe their casualties as “bug splats”, “since viewing the body through a grainy-green video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed”. Or they are reduced to vegetation: justifying the drone war, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser Bruce Riedel explained that “you’ve got to mow the lawn all the time. The minute you stop mowing, the grass is going to grow back”.

Like George Bush’s government in Iraq, Obama’s administration neither documents nor acknowledges the civilian casualties of the CIA’s drone strikes in north-west Pakistan. But a report by the law schools at Stanford and New York universities suggests that during the first three years of his time in office, the 259 strikes for which he is ultimately responsible killed between 297 and 569 civilians, of whom at least 64 were children. These are figures extracted from credible reports: there may be more which have not been fully documented.

The wider effects on the children of the region have been devastating. Many have been withdrawn from school because of fears that large gatherings of any kind are being targeted. There have been several strikes on schools since Bush launched the drone programme that Obama has expanded so enthusiastically: one of Bush’s blunders killed 69 children.

The study reports that children scream in terror when they hear the sound of a drone. A local psychologist says that their fear and the horrors they witness is causing permanent mental scarring. Children wounded in drone attacks told the researchers that they are too traumatised to go back to school and have abandoned hopes of the careers they might have had. Their dreams as well as their bodies have been broken.

Obama does not kill children deliberately. But their deaths are an inevitable outcome of the way his drones are deployed. We don’t know what emotional effect these deaths might have on him, as neither he nor his officials will discuss the matter: almost everything to do with the CIA’s extrajudicial killings in Pakistan is kept secret. But you get the impression that no one in the administration is losing much sleep over it.

Two days before the murders in Newtown, Obama’s press secretary was asked about women and children being killed by drones in Yemen and Pakistan. He refused to answer, on the grounds that such matters are “classified”. Instead, he directed the journalist to a speech by John Brennan, Obama’s counter-terrorism assistant. Brennan insists that “al-Qaida’s killing of innocents, mostly Muslim men, women and children, has badly tarnished its appeal and image in the eyes of Muslims”.

He appears unable to see that the drone war has done the same for the US. To Brennan the people of north-west Pakistan are neither insects nor grass: his targets are a “cancerous tumour”, the rest of society “the tissue around it”. Beware of anyone who describes a human being as something other than a human being.

Yes, he conceded, there is occasionally a little “collateral damage”, but the US takes “extraordinary care [to] ensure precision and avoid the loss of innocent life”. It will act only if there’s “an actual ongoing threat” to American lives. This is cock and bull with bells on.

The “signature strike” doctrine developed under Obama, which has no discernible basis in law, merely looks for patterns. A pattern could consist of a party of unknown men carrying guns (which scarcely distinguishes them from the rest of the male population of north-west Pakistan), or a group of unknown people who look as if they might be plotting something. This is how wedding and funeral parties get wiped out; this is why 40 elders discussing royalties from a chromite mine were blown up in March last year. It is one of the reasons why children continue to be killed.

Obama has scarcely mentioned the drone programme and has said nothing about its killing of children. The only statement I can find is a brief and vague response during a video conference last January. The killings have been left to others to justify. In October the Democratic cheerleader Joe Klein claimed on MSNBC that “the bottom line in the end is whose four-year-old gets killed? What we’re doing is limiting the possibility that four-year-olds here will get killed by indiscriminate acts of terror”. As Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, killing four-year-olds is what terrorists do. It doesn’t prevent retaliatory murders, it encourages them, as grief and revenge are often accomplices.

Most of the world’s media, which has rightly commemorated the children of Newtown, either ignores Obama’s murders or accepts the official version that all those killed are “militants”. The children of north-west Pakistan, it seems, are not like our children. They have no names, no pictures, no memorials of candles and flowers and teddy bears. They belong to the other: to the non-human world of bugs and grass and tissue.

“Are we,” Obama asked on Sunday, “prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?” It’s a valid question. He should apply it to the violence he is visiting on the children of Pakistan.

By: George Monbiot