How Sanctions In Iran Hurt The People

December 10, 2018

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned about being in the world… it’s that politics and people are two completely separate things.  I like to show the face of countries through people and not the politicians that often lead their populations through manipulation, deception, and greed.  

I just came back from Iran; it’s one of my favorite places on earth.  Iran is a beautiful country with a rich culture and history.  Traveling there is exceptional, I went alone but was never alone… the people are friendly and open, the infrastructure is good, the diversity is immense, and the country is stable and easy to move around in. 

Unfortunately, it’s the political face of Iran that gets shown to the world which has very little to do with the face of most of the people that live there. Currently, the country is going through a very rough time.  Iran’s own internal mismanagement coupled with US sanctions are crippling their economy. 

Geopolitics is about chess, it’s about losing a pawn to capture a knight. It’s about control and influence.  The US wants to cripple the Iranian government.  The Saudi relationship is paramount for the US, and a weaker Iran means a stronger Saudi Arabia.  It’s not about freedom, democracy or any of the usual vernacular.  If one is to support Saudi Arabia, it’s about money.  This is how the world has always worked.   

New US sanctions are putting more of a squeeze on Iran.  John Bolton, the National Security Advisor has been getting behind the microphone and speaking about the effectiveness of sanctions, and how they play a pivotal role in reducing Iran’s power/influence in the region.

I’m not supporting the Iranian government at all, but the irony here is Saudi Arabia funds ISIS and Iran kills them. 15 of the 19 hijackers of the September, 11th attacks were from Saudi Arabia, none were from Iran. If those nationalities were reversed a war would have started with Iran many years ago. But it’s fair to say the leadership in Iran is adjacent to  America’s interests, and US/Iranian political relations have been garbage for a long time.

Women skateboard scene in Tehran

Women skateboard scene in Tehran

John Bolton recently stated that “Sanctions are having an enormous effect on Iran.” And that the US government will apply, “Maximum pressure, with the aim to drive Iranian oil exports to zero.” The banter continued,  “We’re going to have sanctions that go beyond this,” he said with a defiant tone laced with a bit of bravado in his voice…  “We’re going to do everything to squeeze them until the pips squeak.”

80% of Iran’s tax revenue comes from oil.  To drive that industry to zero equates to economic Armageddon; this is a good strategy to weaken and defeat an advisory.  But there’s one big problem here… it’s not the politicians in Iran who suffer, it’s the people of the country who suffer. 

Walking the streets of Tehran is much different than when I was there three years ago.  It’s still a safe place but more of a feeling of despair and anxiety has taken over the mood of the city.  Many of the middle class are losing what they had and ending up on the streets, food prices have doubled in half a year.  Every young person I spoke to told me they want to leave the country.  A pharmacist I met predicts half the population is on anti-antidepressant medications.  There’s sadness in many people’s eyes.  Inflation is eating away at the population’s spending power.  People are unsure about their futures.

Yazd, Iran

Yazd, Iran

The Iranians are getting it hard from both ends: from their government and from the US government.  For John Bolton to talk about how effective sanctions are with a bit of satisfaction isn’t something to be proud of.  The leaders of Iran are doing just fine.  It’s the Iranian population who are suffering. 

The irony is that the Iranian people are probably the biggest pro-American population on the planet.  It’s actually a great thing to be American in Iran.  I traveled on my Italian passport there and when I said I was Italian people smiled and said, “Italia very good,” but when I said I was American the excitement and smiles amplified noticeably. 

I understand in political terms how sanctions are a great tool of leverage in the greater geopolitical chess game of the world.  But the reality on the ground is that people suffer the consequences from politicians who don’t have the interests of humanity in mind.  

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