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New EU sanctions, including an embargo on Iranian natural gas, are a response to Iran's refusal to address concerns about its nuclear programme, says British Foreign Secretary William Hague. (Photo: Virginia Mayo/Associated Press.)

Humanitarian Aid Blocked As UN Imposes New Iran Sanctions

If Iran sanctions follows that of Iraq's, the future for Iranians does not look good

Common Dreams staff

Food and medical exports to Iran are being blocked from that country even though they are exempt from new sanctions instituted Monday by the European Union.

The new sanctions, ostensibly in the financial, trade, energy and transport sectors, are "the strongest, most comprehensive sanctions ever put in place on a country," National Iranian American Council Policy Director Jamil Abdi said, according to a release from the NIAC.

Trita Parsi, president of the NIAC, compared the sanctions with those against Iraq, noting, "With Iraq, that of course ended up with 500,000 Iraqi children dead, resulted in the shortage of medicine, and other needs, and ended up ultimately to forceful invasion and war," the Guardian reported.

On Monday, citing concern about Iran's nuclear program, the EU foreign affairs council tightened sanctions against Iran. In addition to current bans on oil and gasoline imports from Iran, new sanctions include but are not limited to a prohibition on most transactions between European and Iranian banks, the import, purchase or transport of natural gas; and the export of any materials relevant to the Iranian nuclear or ballistic programs, the BBC reported.

Iran denies it is developing nuclear weapons and no credible evidence has been offered by either US or western intelligence agencies to contradict that claim. The EU has asked Iran to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent, but Iran reminds them that as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treay, it is entitled to nuclear technology for medical research and energy purposes.

Washington-based sanctions attorney Eric Ferrari said food and medical exports to Iran are being blocked, even though those items are technically exempt from sanctions. According to the NIAC:

He said he has encountered numerous scenarios—an attempted export of a $250,000 of burn medicine, a multimillion dollar export of prosthetic limbs, exports of food supplies—in which goods that had a license from the U.S. government, a willing exporter, and a willing importer, still were blocked because no foreign bank was willing to take the risk to facilitate the transaction.  The reason, he said, is that the U.S. government has announced broader and broader penalties for any foreign bank dealing with Iranian financial institutions, while making no distinction between prohibited and authorized transactions with those banks.  The result is fewer and fewer channels for legal, humanitarian, food, and medical transactions.

At a panel discussion Monday in Washington about the humanitarian impact of the sanctions, NIAC Policy Director Jamil Abdi said the similarities with those imposed on Iraq were cause for serious alarm: "When you hear that and you think about the experience of Iraq, where we had pretty stringent sanctions in place, in which conservative estimates say 375,000 children died as the result of the sanctions, we want to know — is this the pathway of the Iran sanctions, or are these smarter sanctions. Have we learned from these mistakes?"

If remarks by Justin Logan, Director of Foreign Policy for the Cato Institute, are any indication of reality, however, the answer to that question is 'probably not.'

Speaking on Washington's objectives regarding the sanctions, Logan, said the current sanctions are designed "to create pain on the Iranian population that will create fear inside of the regime that that pain will cause unrest—political unrest—an potential for regime collapse, revolution, overthrow, et cetera."

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