ODVV interview: The US Unilateral Economic...
Since 1979, the United States has led international efforts to use sanctions to influence Iran's policies, including Iran's uranium enrichment program. Iran counters that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes, including generating electricity and medical purposes. While, the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council - China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States - plus Germany) and Iran, reached an agreement called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that resulted the lift of the most sanctions; but on 8 May 2018, President Trump announced the US withdrawal from the agreement and the US sanctions resumed again.
It is worth to mentioning that, Iran was not the only target of the US sanctions. The US is the biggest imposer of unilateral economic sanctions against other countries. According to the US Department of Treasury, the United States currently has sanctions programs against 19 countries. The number of entities and individuals sanctioned by the US government is almost countless.
In this regard, the ODVV made and interview with Dr. Chandra Muzaffar. He was the first Director of the Centre for Civilizational Dialogue at the University of Malaya, in Kuala Lumpur. He then became the Noordin Sopiee Professor of Global Studies at the University of Science (USM) in Penang. From 1977 to 1991, he founded Aliran Kesedaran Negara (Aliran); a multi-ethnic reform group in Malaysia for justice, freedom and solidarity. He later became the president of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST), a Non-governmental organization (NGO) that aims to raise public consciousness on the moral and intellectual basis of global justice.
Q: Despite pleas from key members of the international community, the U.S. re-imposed unilateral trade sanctions against Iran; what are the international bases for enforcement of these unilateral trade sanctions by the US? Can a country, without legal permission, be able to impose trade sanctions unilaterally against other countries?
A:There is no legal basis for imposing or re-imposing unilateral trade sanctions upon Iran. However, the United States of America has unilaterally imposed sanctions upon a number of countries. Often in pursuit of its own narrow agenda. One of the most notorious of US sanctions directed against another country is what the US has done to Cuba since 1961. Because the US government is piqued by Cuba's desire to develop autonomously --- shape its own future to the extent it is possible --- it has resorted to comprehensive, crippling sanctions to bring Cuba to its knees. This is what it is also trying to do to Iran.
Q: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaimed by the General Assembly in 1948, sets out basic rights and freedoms to which all women and men are entitled — among them the right to life, liberty and nationality; to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; the right to work and to be educated; the right to food and housing; and the right to take part in government. In another word, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights beside Geneva Convention and International Humanitarian Law, guarantee the human rights and protect the civilians, while, applying the comprehensive form of sanctions causes violation of individual rights of people, is therefore a normative loophole for the applicability of International Humanitarian Law and violation of human rights?
A:There is no need to emphasise that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, like various UN Conventions since then, and humanitarian law in general would regard the unilateral imposition of sanctions by one state against another state as a gross negation of all that the UN seeks to achieve. How can there be global peace or global justice when antagonism between states is deliberately encouraged through sanctions? At the micro-level, the dire consequences of sanctions can kill and maim the individual.
Q: For decades, the US has imposed trade sanctions against several countries. What's the reason behind the US action against other countries?
A:Most of the time, US sanctions have sought to coerce another state to submit to the will of the US. Apart from Cuba, the US has utilised sanctions as a weapon against Nicaragua, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Ecuador among other states in Latin America. Sanctions simply put are directed towards perpetuating US hegemony in various parts of the world.
Q: As you might be aware, the UN Human Rights Council has appointed a special rapporteur for investigating the impacts of unilateral coercive measures. Are there legal and political reasons why extensive trade sanctions are against human rights and unjustifiable?
A:It is obvious that comprehensive trade sanctions are against human rights. Since essential medicines are part of most sanctions regimes, there is overwhelming evidence to show that sanctions imposed upon countries such as Cuba have led to deaths or the neglect of the ailing. This has also happened in Iran.
Q: As you are well aware, President Donald Trump has announced the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal which is formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and renew trade sanctions that were eased during the Obama administration after years of negotiations. In this situation, how can Iranian authorities trust the US authorities?
A:Given what President Trump has done --- withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) ---- one should not be surprised if the Iranian government and the Iranian people no longer trust the US government. Trump's action is betrayal of the highest order. It subverts the entire international system based upon negotiation, compromise and concession.
Q: What's the role of media and NGO on the US unilateral sanctions against Iran? Have these bodies played their role correctly?
A:NGOs and the media have done very little to expose what the US has done to international relations and to global peace through its reckless withdrawal from the JCPOA. This is partly because much of the global media is controlled by Zionist interests. And we know that Zionism and Israel are the mortal foes of Iran. They see Iran as one of the biggest obstacles to their (Zionist-Israeli) control and dominance of West Asia.
Q: What's your practical suggestion for preventing such “unilateral measures” applied by the US against Iran?
A:We have to harness the alternative media more effectively to raise global consciousness about why the US withdrew from the JCPOA, driven by Israeli and Zionist interests, and what the consequences of this action are for international peace. Perhaps agreements such as the JCPOA should be brought under the purview of the UN General Assembly. They should be endorsed by two-thirds of the members of the UNGA and their validity would remain unless two-thirds repudiates the agreement.