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23 Sep, 2013 12:24

‘Inhuman sanctions’ by US fail to achieve political goals, as people suffer

Washington seems certain that exerting sanctions on countries is the safest way to achieve their foreign policy goals. In reality economic and political sanctions do little to control the governments they target, hitting ordinary citizens hard instead.

“The aim of sanctions is to harm the state. But the real victims are ordinary, regular people. Experience has shown that there’s a huge wedge between what ordinary people experience under sanctions, and what the elite do,” RT’s Middle East correspondent Paula Slier reported.

One country against which the US has introduced a wide range of sanctions is Iran. While there’s no concrete proof that Tehran has been busy developing nuclear weapons (it insists its atomic program is for peaceful purposes only), due to international sanctions, the country is struggling to source necessary medicine to treat cancer patients.

Meanwhile, cancer is the third cause of premature death in Iran, with 30,000 people a year now dying from the disease, according to www.ncr-iran.org. Furthermore, a number of these people can ill afford increasingly expensive treatment.

Widespread pollution, excessive use of chemical fertilizers containing cadmium and nitrate, as well as the high psychological pressure of life, have been blamed for the soaring cancer statistics.

“It is my second chemotherapy program. Previously, each session cost approximately 300 dollars. These days it costs about 700 dollars,” pensioner Mahammad Rhidai, who is a cancer patient, told RT. “It is also a challenge to get the medication, because you have to go to almost every drugstore asking for them and also because the prices are way too high.”

Doctors are also sounding the alarm: the trade embargo has caused shortages of food and medical supplies. The director of a cancer center in Iran says he has faced lots of problems getting modern equipment to treat cancer patients.

“There are numerous obstacles for importing the equipment due to the sanctions in place against Iran. We have some equipment but it requires spare parts that we can’t get anywhere. A failure of any single piece or part of this equipment causes us to stop operating the entire machine,” Dr. Kaziminyan said.

Iran is looking to reach out to the world’s powers to revive nuclear talks, in a bid to resolve the global standoff that has dragged on for years. 

An Iranian woman buys medicine from a pharmacy in Tehran (AFP Photo / Atta Kenare)

Ahead of his upcoming address to the UN General Assembly, the country's new leader Hassan Rouhani pledged not to develop nuclear weapons, demanding the West make concessions and ease the painful sanctions.

“I urge my counterparts to seize the opportunity presented by Iran’s recent election. I urge them to make the most of the mandate for prudent engagement that my people have given me and to respond genuinely to my government’s efforts to engage in constructive dialogue. Most of all, I urge them to look beyond the pines and be brave enough to tell me what they see — if not for their national interests, then for the sake of their legacies, and our children and future generations,” he wrote in an opinion essay published in The Washington Post on September 20.

In August, the president of Iran’s Academy of Medical Sciences slammed Washington for exacting “sadistic” revenge on Iranian children through their “inhuman sanctions” against the nation.

“The applied sanctions have caused and will continue to cause acute shortages of necessary food and medicine,” Dr. Alireza Marandi wrote in a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

“The sanctions are also making these essential items increasingly more expensive. As a result, these indispensable supplies have become inaccessible to the most vulnerable of society, including children, mothers, and the elderly, as well as disease-specific and cancer patients. This has literally stopped many patients from being able to prepare or collect essential medications required for their treatment; we are, therefore, witnessing more and more cases of gradual malnutrition and death of children and of patients with specific diseases,” he explained.

Dr. Marandi noted that for over three decades, Iran implemented successful healthcare plans and programs, backed by the World Health Organization, which had “significantly improved the overall health of the entire nation”.

“These achievements are now seriously threatened by the escalation of barbaric sanctions in the past few weeks, particularly by the US government,” he added.

Meanwhile, an expert in global financial markets, Patrick Young argues that in the modern world we live in, any sanctions, even the strictest ones, eventually prove useless.

“The issue with sanctions is that ultimately in an inter-connected world where we have so much globalization, it’s almost impossible for any country even for the hyper-power of the United States of America to be able to successfully stop trade and transaction to successfully happen with different countries. Therefore the end result ultimately has only been to impoverish ordinary citizens rather than really hitting the elite, or ultimately actually endangering the hold-on power of the same elite,” Young told RT.

He notes that the situation with sanctions being applied to any country by the US is that the country in question seems to have lost in the court of American public opinion.

“Therefore we see endlessly sanctions being applied to those nations that are seen as being pariahs, whether that’s being manipulated by political figures or not, and ultimately it causes a problem for the American media who have been overall regarding the idea that this country is in some way a threat to either children or its citizens, or overall is precluding freedom and democracy in that nation,” Mr Young added.

For instance, North Korea’s nuclear aspirations make the US feel uneasy, so the country has been slapped with trade and military restrictions. Although international relief organizations decried the sanctions as inhumane, restrictions still stay in place. Pyongyang has showed no sign of abandoning its nuclear program. 

North Koreans are seen from the window of a train along the railway line between Pyongyang and the North Phyongan Province on the west coast (AFP Photo / Pedro Ugarte)

According to the British Medical Journal, as many as a million people died from malnutrition-related causes in North Korea in the 1990s, and the situation hasn’t improved much since then. The reclusive nation’s economy is struggling to survive, and its agriculture has suffered major blows from natural disasters.

Syria, too, has fallen foul of the United States. Trade and economic restrictions on this middle-eastern country are adding to the burden on an economy, already ravaged by a civil war that has lasted for over two years. More than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict, according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

“Every day people there have to face not just the danger of being killed by a stray bullet, but also the fear that they won’t be able to put bread on the table: access to staple foods has been curtailed by the trade restrictions, prices have sky-rocketed, and life has turned into a struggle for survival,” RT’s Irina Galushko added.

Cuba is another country against which Washington has implemented its sanctions. No nukes here, just a six-decade association with communism and as a result, no trade with the US. Many say the country’s economy is floundering.

The embargo costs Cuba roughly $690 million a year. But the losses for the US are between $1.2 and $3.6 billion annually.

But again, those affected are the most vulnerable in society, particularly Cuba’s elderly, as the country has a rationing system that gives preferential treatment to women and children.

“Those who have been hit hardest seem to be men and the elderly,” RT’s correspondent says. 

A customer gets his monthly rice quota in a store where people can use their "libreta", a ration card which since 1963 has allowed Cubans to buy basic food supplies at cheap -- and heavily subsidized -- prices, in Havana (AFP Photo)