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By Kourosh Ziabari
The sanctions are killing the innocent Iranians in the hospitals: Dr. Mohammad Marandi

Over the past decade, Iran’s nuclear program has been one of the most controversial and debatable foreign policy issues which the U.S. mass media have widely discussed and continually given coverage to. Thousands of news stories, articles, commentaries and interviews were published by the newspapers and magazines on this matter beside hundreds of hours of radio and television programs aired by the American networks and stations.

30 July 2013

What is questionable here is that the majority of the media outlets that covered Iran’s nuclear program and the controversy surrounding it followed a set of clichés and stereotypes which kept them away from an objective and realistic approach toward what’s really going on. Iran has been targeted with four rounds of sanctions stipulated by the UN Security Council along with private and unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States and its European partners all of which contributed to the dilapidation of Iran’s economy; however, the Western mainstream media rarely discussed the humanitarian impact of the sanctions and simply pretended that Iran is being punished because it defies the international calls to curb its nuclear program.

In order to shed light on the unseen and obscured dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program and the sanctions which have been imposed on the country, I called Dr. Mohammad Marandi, a renowned Iranian political scientist who has written on Iran’s foreign policy and the nuclear dossier extensively. We did an elaborate interview in which Dr. Marandi weighed in on the different aspects of Iran’s nuclear dossier and the humanitarian impact of the anti-Iran sanctions. Mohammad Marandi was originally born in Richmond, Virginia and is a graduate of the Birmingham University. He has appeared on such international news networks as BBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera, Russia Today and Press TV as an Iran expert.

On the recent talks between Iran and the six world powers known as the P5+1, he says, “the P5+1 is divided as the Russians and Chinese have very different views than those of the United States, France and Britain.”

“The Russians and Chinese have repeatedly said that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and that there’s no evidence to conclude otherwise. It seems as if the talks were somewhat positive, but I think it would be a mistake to exaggerate their significance and the fact that there was some positive spin at the end,” he added.

Marandi believes that the international pressures cannot influence the progress of Iran’s nuclear program: “whether or not western countries are willing to recognize Iran’s sovereign right to have a peaceful nuclear program, the Iranians will pursue this right, and under no circumstances whatsoever will Iran give up the nuclear program or uranium enrichment.”

Dr. Marandi’s statement that Russia and China have different views on Iran’s nuclear program than the U.S., Britain, France and Germany surprised me, because they gave green light to six UNSC resolutions against Iran, including four rounds of tough economic sanctions. I asked him why he thought this way. He responded, “I believe there are many reasons for that. Earlier on, the accusations made by certain western intelligence organizations and governments had an impact on Chinese and Russian thinking and calculations. In addition, on different occasions, the Russians and Chinese gave ground to western countries in return for certain political and economic concessions.”

However, Marandi believes that the Russian and Chinese mindset has changed over time: “these countries along with other rising powers such as Brazil and India have come to distrust the United States and Europeans much more than before and this has brought about a significant shift in their positions. They have stated repeatedly that the Iranians have been able to explain satisfactorily the different aspects of their nuclear program, and they have reached the conclusion that Iran’s nuclear program is civilian in nature.”

But Many Iranians have come to believe that the sanctions don’t have anything to do with the nuclear program and are used as a leverage to put pressure on Iran and hold back its growing influence in the region. Dr. Marandi says, “it’s widely believed in Iran that the sanctions are not simply about the nuclear program and that they have been imposed because Iran enriches uranium. The sanctions, of course, intentionally target ordinary people, as they have created shortages of medicines in the country and brought about the death of innocent people in hospitals. The most important reason for the sanctions is that the United States and the Europeans simply cannot accept Iran as an independent country which has legitimate interests that differ from those of the United States and the Europeans.”

“These powers have never come to recognize Iran as an independent country with an independent foreign policy and therefore, the United States and its allies are using the nuclear program basically as an excuse to hurt Iran. If it isn’t the nuclear program, it would be human rights, it would be terrorism, or something else,” he said.

But according to Mohammad Marandi, the sanctions are relevant to many other factors, as well: “the sanctions have very much to do with Israel and Iranian opposition to Zionist apartheid. Western powers use whatever excuse available to put pressure on Iran especially at a time when U.S. and European hegemony in the region continues to decline due to the problems resulting from the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, the economic crisis in the west, as well as the awakenings in Arab countries and the general instability in the region. I think the United States feels that the changing situation in the region benefits Iran and shifts the balance of power away from the United States and Europe toward independent countries like Iran and; therefore, the United State and its allies are trying to prevent Iran from rising through so-called crippling sanctions and by attempting to hurt ordinary Iranians.”

Dr. Marandi who currently teaches at the University of Tehran also expressed his viewpoints on the anti-Iran sanctions and the terrible impacts they have on Iranian people’s lives: “one of the repulsive things that we are witnessing today is the inhumane and uncivilized sanctions imposed by European and North American countries on ordinary Iranians. The fact that the Europeans and Americans have been trying to block the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the country’s banking and financial system from functioning, is basically an attempt to block any form of trade to and from Iran, and that includes medicine and foodstuff… That’s what is meant by saying tightening the noose or crippling sanctions.”

But, how have the sanctions changed Iranian nation’s worldview and their attitude toward the United States and Europe? Have the sanctions convinced the Iranians that the West does not treat Iran with goodwill? Dr. Marandi responds: “[the sanctions have] resulted in shortages of essential medicine and people have died as a result. The United States and the Europeans have specifically targeted ordinary people and children and this is something which we see in the Wikileaks documents as well as in statements made by Western government officials when they speak about strangling the Iranian economy. This is a major violation of Iranian human rights, but the irony is that it has had a reverse effect.”

“While the sanctions have had an adverse impact on the Iranian economy, the impact has not been as severe as western governments, think tanks, and western media outlets would have liked… More importantly, if we look at the recent poll carried out by western pollsters, an overwhelming majority Iranians blame western countries for the sanctions and the difficulties that have come about in Iran and the difficulties the economy has experienced. Only ten percent blame the Iranian government. So I believe this has been a public diplomacy fiasco for western regimes, because it has angered Iranians and directed their anger toward the west and their uncivilized behavior,” he continued.

My next question for Mohammad Marandi was if the Western states have politically and economically isolated Iran with their sanctions. He answered by saying “no.”

“We see signs that western countries are actually losing influence as a result of their policies. Western countries have, of course, lost the Iranian market. Iranians as a result of the many sanctions imposed upon them are looking for alternative partners. Therefore by constantly harassing Iran and Iranians, and by trying to strangle the Iranian economy, the Americans and Europeans have encouraged Iran to find alternative partners and increase trade with such countries as China, India, Brazil and Russia which are considered as rivals to the West,” he said.

“So what the United States and the Europeans have actually done is that they’ve hurt their own long-term interests in the region and they are actually helping to create a global realignment. After what western powers did in Afghanistan and Iraq and more recently in Libya, Mali, and Syria, finding such partners has become much easier than before,” Dr. Marandi said.

And Dr. Marandi’s concluding remarks: “the Iranians have a great deal of regional influence too. Iran is no longer threatened by neighboring Iraq as Saddam Hussein has fallen and Al-Qaeda and Taliban no longer dominate Afghanistan as they did before. Iran’s eastern and western borders are so much safer and prosperous, while American allies in the region have collapsed such as in Tunisia and Egypt and other regional allies of the United States are becoming increasingly unstable and their future is uncertain… If the Saudi regime begins to grow unstable, then obviously the oil-rich Arab dictatorships in the Persian Gulf region will all destabilize. So it seems that the West has lost much of its influence in the North Africa and West Asia, whereas Iran continues to grow stronger.”

Kourosh Ziabari
Journalist, writer and media correspondent
July 31, 2013