10,928 Days of Economic Sanctions on Iran
An editorial by Syed Javad Syedpor
Today, once again President Obama signed and renewed the Iran Sanctions Act for one additional year. Every time the topic of Iran sanctions is raised, we [in Iran] ask ourself a very pointed question: when was there a time we were not sanctioned?
More than 11,000 days have elapsed since Iran’s revolution of Feb 11, 1979. During this entire period, the only time Iran was not under US sanctions was just under a year's time: the time period between the Revolution’s Day on Feb. 11, 1979 and the occupation of the "spy nest" (US Embassy in Tehran), on Nov. 4 1979. Since then, sanctions on Iran have been continually expanded. In other words, the Iranian nation has been under sanctions by the US and its like-minded allies for 10,928 days.
However, political realism or even simple reason tells us, if in 10,928 days this policy has continued to fail in its intended goal, the evidence suggests that for some reason the United States and its western allies cannot comprehend or accept this policy's failure. In other words, to put this more bluntly, if these sanctions caused some suffering to the Iranian people, at the same time they also did not produce the intended results for the architects and implementers of these said sanctions.
The chronology of US sanctions against Iran can be measured in six general periods:
- First: The "spy nest" occupation (US Embassy) period from 1979 to 1981.
- Second: The Sacred Defense (Iran–Iraq War) period from 1981 to 1988.
- Third: The reconstruction period from 1989 to 1992.
- Fourth: The Clinton era of dual containment from 1993 to 2001.
- Fifth: The aftermath period of September 11, 2001.
- Sixth: US led UN Security Council resolutions since 2006.
During these time periods, although sanctions were introduced and applied in different forms and shapes, they did not produce their intended goals of overthrowing the Iranian government and/or to give up its nuclear program.
From World War II until now- especially in decades following the 1970’s- the success of sanctions has continually decreased, and nowhere is this more evident than in recent times. Between World War I until 1990, for nearly 75 years, a total of 115 economic sanctions have been put in place and executed against a multitude of countries. On average, that's roughly 1.5 sanctions per year.
However, since 1990, the number of economic sanctions have increasingly dramatically. For example, between 1990 and 1999, 66 countries experienced economic sanctions. In other words, the average annual number of sanctions have increased nearly five times: from 1.5 sanctions per year for the period of 1918 to 1999, to 6.6 sanctions per year between 1990 and 1999, respectively.
In fact, in the contemporary sense, one of the reasons for a reduction in the success of sanctions is due to this very increase in the total number of sanctions. When the range of sanctions becomes so extensive and covers so many countries, appropriate structures against sanctions emerge within both the formal and informal international economy.
Many experts believe that with the downfall of the Soviet Union and the end of the cold war, the rise of a single polar world order led by the United States has provided the main cause for this incredible increase in sanction regimes. This is in part due to the fact that the U.S. government has always been a world leader in the placement of economic sanction policies. From 1918 to 1990, the US government is responsible for 77 out of a total of 115 sanction regimes in the world. That represents 67% of the total sanctions placed during this period. However, this share of imposing sanctions shoots to 92% for the period 1990 to 1999.
In just the first term of the President Clinton administration, 61 U.S. government economic sanctions were implemented against 35 countries, representing a population of over 2.3 billion people; meaning nearly 42 percent of the entire world population were under some form of US sanctions at one time or another!
Over the past 30 years, some of these sanctions implemented by the United States were against Iran. From Nov. 14 1979, which is 10 days after the occupation of the "spy nest" (US Embassy), Jimmy Carter’s presidential directive 12170 ordered the freezing of $12 billion of Iran's assets. A few months later, in April 1980, Carter ordered restrictions on trade and travel to Iran. In March 15, 1995, during the Clinton administration, the National Emergency Act of March 15, 1995 passed, which increased the range of these sanctions. In the last 30 years, this process has persisted, with 34 similar enactments or continuations. No doubt, during these past 30 years, the US government has done all it could do against Iran, and if it were possible to do more, they'd have done it by now.
Now, besides extending the National Emergency act for one more year, they're also trying for a new round of sanctions at the UN Security Council. Considering all that's taken place over the past 30 years, this will be the “seventh period” of sanctions; perhaps with newer approaches, and more pressure imposed on Iran. However, if the sanctions of the past three decades (encompassing six previous general sanction periods) have not produced the intended results for the US and its allies, what makes them hope this time will?