Iran Sanctions Don’t Work

What is there not to love about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

I’m being serious. No other world leader provides as much entertainment as this Rumpelstiltskin-gone-wild. From claiming that there are no gays in Iran, to expecting us to believe his nuclear research will be used for peace after endless threats against the U.S. and Israel, to serving as a beacon of anti-Semitism in the Middle East, Ahmadinejad is a journalist’s wet dream.

Ahmadinejad’s recent visit to the UN General Assembly in New York was what everyone expected it to be. The irate dictator used his platform to rail against the U.S. – again – and insisted – again – that 9/11 was not the primary fault of Muslim extremists with a long history of hatred for the West. Instead, it was perpetrated or supported by the U.S. government, either to validate an invasion into Iraq or to save what he termed the “Zionist regime” of Israel. He then belittled the 3,000 deaths of 9/11 by comparing them to the “hundreds and thousands” of casualties in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, insinuating that the World Trade Center was on par with a battlefield. Ahmadinejad then posited that the majority of people in the U.S. and around the world believe the American government staged the attacks. It was at this point that the U.S. delegation removed their headphones, collected their notepads and left the room. The chairs for the Israeli delegation remained empty throughout the entire 33-minute speech.

What should we do about this nutjob, who is soon to come into possession of nuclear power? As many U.S. military strategists have explained, a military strike is not the optimal decision.

About two weeks ago, I got into a discussion about the Khomeini regime with a Muslim friend of mine whose father is an influential and powerful figure in Iran.

“Of course I don’t support a military attack on Iran,” he told me when I asked him what he thought of the U.S. leaving open the option of an air strike. “These are my people. I don’t want to see them killed.”

He went on to explain, “How would you feel if someone like Khomeini took over your country? Would you want an outsider coming in and killing your people to change it, or would you want the change to come from within?” He then elaborated that no amount of sanctions, no amount of military strikes, computer worms or boycotts would save Iran.

“What has to happen,” he told me, and leaned forward with a confident grin, “Whatever has to happen has to come from the people of Iran. The huge protests in 2009? That has to happen again. But bigger.”

As he told me this, I came to understand how right he was. The complex systems and political structures that run a country, even one like Iran, make it a lot like a human being.

Let’s say that you’re a constant smoker. Three packs a day. You’re at a dead-end job, you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck and the only reason you haven’t divorced your wife for cheating on you is because you both need the benefits. If it weren’t for cigarettes, you’d have flung yourself from the top of Macy’s on 31st and Main by now. Your friends have been on your back getting you to quit smoking. Sometimes their nagging persistence penetrates that thick head of yours. But in the end, you always come crawling back to the Camels; they’re the only things keeping you from becoming a pancake on the street. “I wish I could quit you,” you say to your first cigarette in weeks before lighting up.

To break yourself of a bad habit, the desire and effort to do so must come from you. It has to be internal. If you quit simply because someone else influenced you, the desire to stay smoke-free won’t have much of a chance of remaining permanent. But say you sit up at your desk one day and realize, “Screw these things. I don’t want cancer at 35! I’m quitting!” Only at a time like that will the motivation to quit smoking come from within you, making it an internal source of desire.

The same idea applies to Iran. The sanctions, boycotts and even possible military strikes won’t do anything because they’re all external influences. They may damage Iran’s economy or infrastructure, but the core ideology that rules over the country, Khomeini’s ideology, will still be there, behaving the way it always has. The only way to fix it is to oust the Khomeini regime, and the only way that will happen is if the desire for it bubbles to boiling point within the Iranian people .

So how does one ignite the hearts of an entire country of people? We saw that the voting fraud in 2009 was enough to get the Iranians fired up and into the streets, and it made the Khomeini regime sweat. This explains why Iran is so tightfisted against allowing Western influences into Iran, such as news, music, books and people; they understand that it’s not guns and revolutionaries they have to worry about, but what they deem “propaganda.” Once an idea has taken hold of a community, it can’t be eradicated. The Khomeini regime knows that this is their Achilles’ heel. Whatever cracks, leaks and spigots exist in the thick anti-Western dome around Iran is where the Iranians will have to draw their courage and motivation from if they want to take their country back.

AE Anteater is a fifth-year English major. He can be reached at emailremoved@uci.edu.