IRI Sanctions: Yes or No?
تحريم بين المللي: آري يا نه؟


After the elections of the Seventh Parliament (Majles), Iran Democratic Front (IDF), on Feb 22, 2004,  published a communiqué, where they have called for an all-encompassing international economic and political sanction of Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI):


"For many years, Jebhe Demokratik Iran (IDF) has been calling for convening a referendum for formal proof of the lack of legitimacy of the absolutist state and now we ask all organizations and parties of the opposition in Iran and all over the world to show the world this lack of legitimacy and in the countries of their residence, to ask for an all-encompassing economic and political sanction to force a free referendum for determining the degree of legitimacy of this regime with the question of "Islamic Republic: Yes or No?" [All-encompassing International Sanction , Esfand 3, 1382, #S-4]"


We should remember that IDF a year ago this time, during the elections of City Councils, was among the first organizations that called for the boycott of that election of the regime, a demand that in practice was what people did during that election.  A demand that this year, during the elections for the Seventh Majles, became the demand of the majority of Iranian reformist groups in Iran.


My discussion here is not about IDF.  The reason I have mentioned them is because they have stated their position with regards to calling for sanction, more clearly than any other reformist group I know, although they are active inside Iran, and taking such clear positions can endanger their life.  Nonetheless, before any discussion, I should note that I also understand forces inside Iran who avoid taking clear position on such issues, because of the type of their activity in Iran, and in this article, my goal is not to reproach them, because not all social activities require taking position on every issue.  But clarity for Iran's political movement about calling for sanctions, and whether Iranians really want it, is very important, because the consequences of such a stand, can be a very heavy toll on the life of Iranian people.  Let me explain more.


In the last 24 years, demonstrations against IRI in Europe, similar to demonstrations against Shah's regime, have been meaningful.  Because the demand of the demonstrators had been to pressure European governments' relations with IRI.  But in the U.S., which does not have official relations with IRI, the demand of demonstrations has been ambiguous.  If their demand had been to pressure the relations with Iran, the maximum pressure is cutting relations, which has been the case in the 24 years, and there is no point in demanding it.  Of course, there are a few groups who have been asking for US invasion of Iran, and their reason for demonstration in the U.S.  is that call.  Personally I avoid such demonstrations because I am 100% against the call for military invasion of Iran.


To be fair, I should note that there are other Iranian groups that have demonstrated in the U.S,. in the last 24 years ,and they do not want the U.S. invasion of Iran.  I cannot understand their demand from the U.S. government, but they see the reason for their action to be informing the American people about Iran's situation.  I consider demonstrations as a particular form of opposition to IRI, to be meaningful, when having a demand from the state of a country where the demonstration is being held, otherwise the demonstration seems to be similar to the state demonstrations in Iran of the time of Shah and IRI, which in my view such demonstrations are meaningless.  Why I noted this point was to emphasize that I am not considering all those who make demonstrations in the U.S. to be wanting a U.S. invasion of Iran.  At any rate, my understanding is different from these friends about demonstration.  And the subject of my discussion here is not this issue which is not that important. 


The reality is that in the last 24 years, Iranian demonstrations in Europe have grown, and have had significance.  The reason is that the European governments have relations with IRI, and the demand of the demonstrators is ultimately to cut those relations.  I wrote these explanations so that I can now discuss the demand for *sanctions* of IRI.


In the last 24 years, U.S. has had sanctions on IRI.  IRI lobbyists and their supporters have tried to lift those sanctions. I wrote an article in July 2000, where I asked any removal of sanctions to be *conditioned* on observation of human rights by IRI. At the time, I was attacked by IRI lobbyists in the U.S.  It is interesting that after the growth of pro-democracy movement in Iran in the recent years, and especially after the pressure on the so-called reformist forces in Iran, the same supporters of IRI abroad, are asking for some human rights conditions for relations with IRI, of course as far as the human rights of the IRI reformist factions is concerned. At any rate, my discussion here is not the IRI lobbyist groups and I have explained enough about them before.


My discussion here is about lucidity of the demand of independent pro-democracy forces of Iran when calling for international sanctions. My point is that in all my discussions in the past, the subject of my discussion was about the how of *lifting* of existing U.S. sanctions, and *not* that I was calling for sanctions on IRI, and still all those problems that I noted had come up.  Asking for sanctions, makes the issue a lot more complex, and all Iranian and political forces need to think about it very attentively, before making such a demand from European countries during demonstrations or in other ways.


Let me explain more.  During the past years, in a number of articles, I discussed that globalization will impact many of our positions with respect to Iran. For example, in February 2002, in an article entitled "Globalization and Iranian Intellectual Circles", I discussed that Iranian intellectuals instead of demonstrating against globalization, should understand its significance for Iran. For example, a full economic and political sanction of United Nations on any country, in today's world, can easily bring a regime to its knees. In South Africa, even when Mandela was freed, he still asked the West to continue their sanctions against the apartheid regime till the end. This is why IRI has been spending a huge budget on lobbyists in the U.S. and elsewhere, all these years, to fence off sanctions, and even some of the most experienced Iranian political thinkers have been deceived by the IRI lobbyists.


Nonetheless, some political groups of Iran think exactly the opposite.  For example some political currents believe that even the U.S. sanctions should be lifted *without* any human rights conditions, and they think acceptance of Iran by the World Trade Organization (WTO), should be done without any human rights preconditions, and they think merging of Iran's economy in gloibal economy thru WTO membership, will practically end IRI, and Iran will be able to enter a post-industrial development.  Even for Turkey, issues like capital punishment were raised as a block for its entry to EU, but these friends for the joining of IRI to WTO, argue for removing any human rights pre-conditions, and think this is to the advantage of Iranian people.


Therefore these folks deduce a completely opposite result from globalization, in comparison to those who deduce full economic and political sanctions, to force IRI to help the demand for a referendum.  In my opinion, the economism of the views of these friends, is the reason for their mistaken political view of joining the WTO, and their expected miracles of WTO, will not result from merger with the global economy, and in practice their help on IRI relations with the West, without human rights pre-conditions, will strengthen the position of IRI conservatives,  to change Iran to another Saudi Arabia, or at best to another China.


Regardless of the reason for different positions of various political tendencies about the issue of relations of Iran with the Western world, Iranian political groups need to carefully study the demand for sanctions, before asking it from the Western countries, because later this position can cause hardship and tough consequences for the Iranian people, and if such a decision is not made consciously, it can cause many think that some Iranians abroad, who are having an "easy life" themselves, are the reason for the hardships caused for Iranian people.  In fact, if the political forces and personalities inside Iran think that sanctions from the West to pressure a referendum are needed, just like Mandela, they should express they view clearly, before the groups abroad do anything to pressure Western states for this demand.



Hoping for a democratic and secular futurist republic in Iran,


Sam Ghandchi

February 30, 2004