Fact: While many sanctions measures are at least nominally aimed at the Iranian government and its nuclear program, the sanctions on Iran are deeply affecting the Iranian people.
Despite exemptions from sanctions for licensed imports of medical supplies, financial restrictions are causing significant shortages in critical medicines:
- Iranian Hemophilia Society: “Essential medication, not manufactured in Iran, can no longer be paid for and imported from abroad, due to the virtually absolute restrictions placed upon the movement of money.” (Al-Monitor, Iranian Charity and Banker say US Sanctions Hurting Patients; August 15, 2012)
- Washington Post: “The effect, the experts say, is being felt by cancer patients and those being treated for complex disorders such as hemophilia, multiple sclerosis and thalassemia, as well as transplant and kidney dialysis patients, none of whom can afford interruptions or delays in medical supplies.” (Washington Post, In Iran, sanctions take toll on the sick; September 4, 2012)
- Washington Post: “Hengameh Ebrahim-Zadeh, of the Tehran Province Thalassemia Association,… said she knows of four deaths in Tehran over the past month that were a result of the shortage of medicine for thalassemia patients.” (Washington Post, In Iran, sanctions take toll on the sick; September 4, 2012)
Sanctions aimed at Iran’s entire economy and banking sector have led to a rapid devaluation of Iran’s currency, increased already high levels of inflation, contributed to growing unemployment and are punishing the middle class and Iran’s opposition.
- David Cohen, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence: “the most dramatic reflection of the impact of financial sanctions can be seen in the plummeting value of Iran’s currency, the rial.” (Department of the Treasury. Remarks of Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen before the New York University School of Law on “The Law and Policy of Iran Sanctions;” September 12, 2012)
- Yassamin Issapour: “Iranian households now have to pay on average half of their monthly salaries just to keep food on the table.” (Wall Street Journal, Inflation and Iran’s Regime, July 4, 2012)
- Al-Monitor: “Rent prices in Tehran also rose by 30% [in June].” (Al-Monitor, Sanctions Drive Up Cost of Living in Iran; June 30, 2012)
- Reuters: “Companies which import goods have been struggling to survive the plummeting rate of the rial which has lost more than 40 percent of its value against the dollar since the beginning of this year. In the last year, Iranian media have reported on tens of thousands of jobs being cut after businesses of all types have come under threat. (MSNBC, Iranians feel the pain as West tightens sanctions; July 2, 2012)
- “Sanctions are slowly transforming Iran from a country with an expanding middle class and a rising private sector into a country with a shrinking middle class and private sector. Financial sanctions have placed private firms at a disadvantage relative to government-owned firms in making global transactions. Where the private sector withdraws, the state is often ready to move in.” (Brookings Institute, Should the United States Rethink Sanctions Against Iran; August 6, 2012)
- “The urban middle class that has historically played a central role in creating change and promoting progress in Iran are key casualties of the sanctions regime.” (International Civil Society Action Network, What the Women Say: Killing them softly: The Stark Impact of Sanctions on the Lives of Ordinary Iranians; July 2012)
- Opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi: “These sanctions have given an excuse to the Iranian government to suppress the opposition by blaming them for the unstable situation of the country.” Sanctions are “strengthening the illegitimate government.” (The Guardian, Iran sanctions strengthen Ahmadinejad regime – Karroubi; August 11, 2010)
Iran has been affected by unprecedented levels of air pollution since U.S. sanctions on providing Iran refined gasoline went into effect, requiring Iranians to use more polluting alternatives that have a deleterious effect on the health on the Iranian population.
- New York Times: “Officials ordered at least five of the country’s major petrochemical plants to switch production to gasoline. According to e-mails circulated to industry experts and reproduced on unofficial news sites and blogs, Iran’s new supply of domestic gasoline may contain high levels of aromatics — more than twice the level permitted by Iranian law. Burning aromatics in car engines produces exhaust packed with high concentrations of “floating particles” or “particulates” that, added to the typical smog caused by nitrous oxides and ozone, can cause a range of health problems, from headaches and dizziness to more serious cardiac and respiratory complaints.” (New York Times, Energy Policy in Iran Leaves Many Gasping; December 21, 2010)
- LA Times: Gas stations are selling three types of fuel: gasoline produced at petrochemical plants; with the additive MTBE; and normal fuel produced at refineries… the fuel with MTBE is considered carcinogenic in Europe. (LA Times, Iran: Experts suggest sanctions are tied to staggering pollution levels; December 7, 2010)
- New York Times: “An official in Tehran’s municipal government leaked Health Ministry statistics for pollution-related deaths on his personal Web site — more than 3,600 in the first nine months of the Iranian calendar year— figures that until now had never been released to the Iranian public.” (New York Times, Energy Policy in Iran Leaves Many Gasping; December 21, 2010)
US sanctions on spare parts for Iran’s civilian aircraft have led to a series of tragic and avoidable accidents.
- New York Times: “The sanctions have prevented oil-rich Iran from updating its fleet, forcing it to use substandard Russian planes and to patch up its older jets far past their normal years of service, drawing on spare parts bought with increasing difficulty on the black market. Rarely a year goes by without major airline accidents, and most Iranian planes, including the 727, are forbidden to operate within the European Union.” (New York Times, Iran’s Airlines Seen as Faltering Under Sanctions; July 13, 2012)
- Christian Science Monitor: “In late 2002, speaking days after the crash of a Ukrainian-made plane killed 46 scientists, the then-transport chief [of Iran] said several Boeing and Airbus planes had been grounded for lack of parts, and Iran’s aging fleet had ‘reached a crisis point.’” (Christian Science Monitor, Iran plane crash latest to afflict aging fleet; January 10, 2011)
Reformist and opposition leaders in Iran say that sanctions give the Iranian government a pretext to crack down on opposition groups like the Green Movement.
- Mehdi Karroubi, senior leader of the Green Movement: “These sanctions have given an excuse to the Iranian government to suppress the opposition by blaming them for the unstable situation of the country… “Look at Cuba and North Korea. Have sanctions brought democracy to their people? They have just made them more isolated and given them the opportunity to crack down on their opposition without bothering themselves about the international attention.” (The Guardian, Iran sanctions strengthen Ahmadinejad regime; August 11, 2010)
- Ali Shakouri-Rad, a leading member of the opposition Islamic Iran Participation Front: “‘The government will say that critics of their policies are doing the foreigners’ bidding’ and will use sanctions as a pretext to silence opponents, said.” (Washington Post, Iranian Opposition Warns Against Stricter Sanctions; October 1, 2009)
Though the Obama Administration has taken some steps to undo the effects of sanctions that make it more difficult for Iranians to freely access internet communications tools, sanctions continue to affect the availability of internet tools inside Iran:
- “In spite of these legal allowances, the publics of sanctioned countries continue to be denied access to the basic tools and platforms necessary for communicating safely and securely online. While civil society and governments foster the development of technology to protect Internet users, this continued restriction of access facilitates authoritarian governments in the repression of their citizens’ fundamental freedoms.” (Coalition organizations supporting internet freedom; June 28, 2012)
- “The Obama administration has granted exemptions from trade restrictions with Syria and Iran to allow U.S. tech firms to make their goods and services available to customers in those countries. But the sheer complexity of the sanctions — and the steep fines for violating them — have in many cases kept U.S. firms from seeking clarification or attempting to obtain export licenses.” (Washington Post, Sanctions aimed at Syria and Iran are hindering opposition, activists say; August 14, 2012)
- “The irony of the situation, [say activists], is that as members of the opposition struggle to access new technologies, the Iranian and Syrian governments have been able to circumvent sanctions through a network of suppliers.” (Washington Post, Sanctions aimed at Syria and Iran are hindering opposition, activists say; August 14, 2012)