The only way to save the world from conflict is to starve the people of Iran.
At least that's what a new op-ed by several prominent Israeli and American political figures proposes. "Total Sanctions Might Stop Iran", published in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, lays out a grand proposal for further sanctions on Iran with a stern warning: "Our near future carries the risk of a military conflict with Iran, or a nuclear arms race in the already-volatile Middle East." The sanctions are composed of four steps:
A) Cutting off Iran's access from international banking system absolutely and completely;
B) Making it impossible for companies to operate in Iran by requiring them to disclose business and investment transactions, exposing them to the risk of "reputational harm";
C) Prohibiting all international cargo shippers from servicing Iranian ports and cutting Iran's access from international shipping. This could be accomplished by US and European Union laws for a 10-year entry ban on any tankers or general cargo vessels that have docked at Iranian ports in the past 36 months;
D) Prohibiting Iranian insurers and reinsurers from doing business in the EU and US.
To their credit, the authors --- three of whom are the former heads of the intelligence services of the US, Israel, and Germany --- do bring up the plight of Iran's population if these sanctions are implemented. They, however, brush these worries aside by claiming that, as Iran's economy is controlled by the regime and it is harming the people anyway, and half-hearted measures like earlier sanctions are just as detrimental.
For the authors, these harsher sanctions are perhaps the last step to avert a military conflict with Iran, showing the regime that the world is serious about preventing Tehran from getting nuclear weapons. However, they offer no timetable for when the effects of these sanctions might be visible or if and when Iran will have to be struck if these sanctions fail. Meanwhile, Iran's 75 million people ill be forced to scratch out a living inside a country that is heavily reliant on other producers for food. And that's just one vital import.
These proposed sanctions are not just crippling. They will force the regime to evolve into an entity that fulfils all the needs of its people, from food to medicine, with restricted exchange outside the country.
There is a small glimmer of hope for the people of Iran that the regime will find some countries willing to do business with it. Those countries, however, will likely turn the Islamic Republic from one which a few years ago was selling goods to a wide variety of clients at market rates to one that buys essential import items from whatever source it can find at inflated prices.
And if the second option is unavailable, then Iran would have to become an autarky.
The term is derived from the Greek word autarkeia, which means self-sufficiency. And if we're going to bring up autarkeia, let's also delve into another word --- Juche. It's from the Korean language and is the driving ideology of North Korea, one of the few countries in the world which claims to be an autarky. One of its meanings is "self-reliance" to become self-sufficient.
The immediate parallel one might note is that the present North Korea, despite sanctions, has the nuclear weapons that sanctions are supposedly going to deny Iran. However, there is a further, bigger issue.
The problem with harsh sanctions is the speculative nature of the exercise of implementing often inhuman measures on entire populations for the deeds of their undemocratic, unelected, and dictatorial rulers. Suppose these sanctions are implemented. We do not have an example to show that a country like Iran will halt its nuclear programme. However, we do have a North Korea, hobbled by sanctions for years and attempting to become economically self-sufficient, where the regime chooses to make its people suffer to attain nuclear weapons.
Here's a third word: khod-kifaayee. It's Persian for "self-sufficiency". Keep it in mind as pundits and former officials continue to put out their recommendations in the Wall Street Journals of the world.