Drone, Sanctions affecting Medicine, Intensify US-Iran Tensions

Among President Obama’s first decisions after his reelection was to further increase already severe sanctions on Iran. Just before that, Iran shot at a US drone it claims was spying on Iranian vessels in the Gulf.

Russia Today reports:

Obama’s sanctions regime, it is argued, is already damaging Iranian public health. Medicines are not getting in or are too expensive. Medical and other infrastructure is suffering from Iran’s inability to import from Europe or inability to pay for imports because the US has had it kicked off major bank interchanges.

Iran is said to face difficulties in finding spare parts for its airplanes. Now that Europe has cut Iran off, there is a steel shortage.

The International Monetary Fund expects Iran’s economy to contract by about a point this year, and to grow by a point next year. That economic performance is anemic compared to 2010, when Iran grew about 6%.

Russia Today reports on the boycott

28 Responses

  1. Dear Professor Cole

    “Among President Obama’s first decisions after his reelection was to further increase already severe sanctions on Iran. Soon thereafter Iran shot down a US drone it claims was spying on Iranian vessels in the Gulf”

    Shot at or fired warning shots at, but not shot down. Shot down would be far more serious.

    • the linked article at The Daily Star quotes a Pentagon spokesman as saying that the US will defend her “forces.”

      In a warning to Tehran, the Pentagon spokesman said the United States was prepared to safeguard its forces.

      “We have a wide range of options, from diplomatic to military, to protect our military assets and our forces in the region and will do so when necessary,” Little said.

      So he tacitly admits that what was at stake was an “asset,” but not “forces.”

      Would shooting down an unmanned drone really be far more serious ? Without loss of human life, how far should the US go to avenge the downing of a piece of equipment ?
      That is going to happen sooner or later. I predict it will happen in Pakistan just after their next election, if not sooner.

      Maybe ‘Rule of Law’ Americans can box this President in before that situation arises by having a discussion on whether such an act warrants killing more civilians.

      • “Would shooting down an unmanned drone really be far more serious? Without loss of human life, how far should the US go to avenge the downing of a piece of equipment?”

        Iran’s shooting down of an unmanned surveillance drone would involve more than the “downing of a piece of equipment,” even if there were no loss of life. This “piece of equipment” was a military asset surveilling the Gulf in international waters. It had every right to be there, and if Iran had shot it down, it would be no different than if Russia, say (as an example only), were to shoot down a U.S. spy satellite from a space platform. “No loss of life”? “Just a piece of equipment”? It wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) wash.

    • The most serious aspect of Iran’s SU-25 jet fighters shooting at the unarmed U.S. Predator surveillance drone was that it occurred 16 nautical miles off the Iranian coast. International law recognizes sovereignty up to 12 nautical miles off the coast, so Iran shot at it in international waters, where the drone had every right to be under international law.

      • And in this alternative universe, of course, Hellfire drone strikes and “unarmed [spy?] [provocative?] flights” that might according to some cramped logical twister argument have been “acceded to” by the silence or absence of one part of some nominal central government, or are done in disregard of such inconvenient niceties, are A-OK?

        Would it be different if the Iranian aircraft that apparently shot at the drone was one of Iran’s US-sourced F-14s, rather than an Evil Commie SU-25?

        “Serious aspect,” hey? “Gulf of Tonkin”-”Yellowcake”-kind-of-serious?

        I think I read in Aviation Week&Space Technology that hypocrisy-powered Reapers fly higher, and faster, and farther too…

      • Bill,
        a vessel 16 miles off the coast of Iran, but in the vicinity of Khark Island, may actually be in Iranian airspace.
        Also, if it is 16 miles off the coast, but is leaving the area, and had been inside Iran’s airspace, I think an argument can be made that attacking it was a defensive move.

        I’ve worked for the Pentagon and the State Department. There’s a lot of misinformation that comes out of both.

        • “a vessel 16 miles off the coast of Iran, but in the vicinity of Khark Island, may actually be in Iranian airspace.
          Also, if it is 16 miles off the coast, but is leaving the area, and had been inside Iran’s airspace, I think an argument can be made that attacking it was a defensive move.”

          “I’ve worked for the Pentagon and the State Department. There’s a lot of misinformation that comes out of both.”

          Assuming it was 16 miles off the Iranian coast, including the waters around Khark Island, it would not have been in Iranian airspace. Your theoretical statement concerning the possibility that it had been inside Iran’s airspace is just that, a theoretical possibility. It is highly unlikely, however, because you can be sure that if it had been the Iranians would have made noise about it after shooting at it.

          As to your statement about your credentials, I usually don’t flaunt mine, and I hesitate to do so now, but since you have seen fit to put the subject on the table, I spent a career in the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer, including an assignment in the Pentagon as a State-Defense Exchange Officer. While one occasionally does not get the full story and misinformation does come out, as in the initial reports of the attack in Benghazi, to say that “a lot of misinformation comes out of both” overstates the case.

        • “I’ve worked for the Pentagon and the State Department. There’s a lot of misinformation that comes out of both.”

          So have I, Brian. Your statment that “There’s a lot of misinformation that comes out of both” overstates the case.

  2. Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

    Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.

    –60 Minutes (5/12/96)

    Half a million children is seen as a small price to pay for US military domination of the Middle East, as long as the children are foreigners.

    • Israel can defy UN resolutions with relative impunity. But Iran defies Uncle Sam, and scares Israel, so they must pay and be threatened with attack. yep, seems fair and even-handed to me.

    • What’s the big deal? We are assured that it’s all “perfectly legal” and “in accordance with international law.” And the subsumed subtext is that the Grown.Ups are in charge, and what they do (like invading Iraq and Afghanistan and picking a war with Iran and droning and “[using] all necessary and appropriate force” any- and everywhere, damn the cost in dollars, death and instability, and who cares about unknown unknowns, anyway?) is fully vetted and carefully controlled and all-wise, right?

      Some smarty-pants Ivory Tower law student offers this notion:

      This congressional authorization gave the president the authority to use force against those involved in the 9/11 attacks and their allies, but the war on terror has moved beyond this mandate. In 2001, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Osama bin Laden were clearly the “enemy.”3 The AUMF addressed this threat by providing domestic authorization for the use of force against all entities closely tied to 9/11. However, ten years after the attacks, bin Laden is dead and the Taliban is a shadow of its former self.4 Yet the United States still uses the AUMF to justify the use of force against new terrorist and extremist groups, many of which were not closely involved in 9/11 and may not have even existed in 2001. Given this disconnect, politicians have advocated amending, scrapping, or reaffirming the AUMF to have it reflect the present reality of the conflict.

      The Obama administration argues that the AUMF should remain the same and has taken pains to expand the authorization to cover new terrorist threats from organizations unrelated to al-Qaeda.5 However, this ten-year old authorization must be revised. The United States is facing a new and still evolving enemy; our law on conflict must evolve with it. We should not expect the President to simply reinterpret or stretch statutory language when considering such fundamentally important issues as national security, deadly force, and indefinite detention. This “stretching” out of the statute will create significant questions of legality and authorization in times when we cannot afford to hesitate or second-guess. The President and the armed forces need an updated, clear, and explicit authorization to execute this war effectively and know the limits of their power. In short, Congress must amend or update the AUMF to reflect the current reality of conflict and guide the President’s prosecution of this war.

      link to scholarship.law.duke.edu

      But that kind of flies in the face of the Imperial Presidency, doesn’t it? I mean, isn’t the “right” way to run a country just to have it that whatever the President says (or his nominal underlings can stick him with) just, you know, GOES?

      • We’re not talking about targeted killing here, but since you brought it up-
        The farther we get from targeting al-Queda (e.g. al-Shabab in Somalia), the harder it is to squeeze those operations into th AUMF.
        But an updated AUMF (why not throw in drug kingpins too?) doesn’t solve all the legal questions. If other states were to claim the broad-based authority that the US does, to kill people wherever, whenever, the result would be chaos.

        • The US hasn’t claimed the right to kill people wherever, whenever.

          If the facts of American actions were so awful, there would be no need to make anymore up.

  3. Is it generally agreed that if Europe acted with true independence (from the US on Middle East issues), the EU would not support harsh sanctions on Iran? Yet,if this is so, how do we explain the EU’s contradictory stand on labelling products coming from the Occupied Palestinian Territory?
    For example, In May 2012, due to the illegality of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), Denmark announced that it will begin marking Israeli goods originating in the West Bank “with a special label…In an interview [the] Danish Foreign Minister Villy Sovndal said, ‘This is a step that clearly shows consumers that the products are produced under conditions that not only the Danish government, but also European governments, do not approve of. It will then be up to consumers whether they choose to buy the products or not.’ Sovndal added that the measure was part of EU support for the Palestinians and the solution of two states for two peoples.” link to detailedpoliticalquizzes.wordpress.com

  4. When properly motivated, our capacity for inflicting cruelty on weak nations is quite robust. And since this is an area where the President has significant decision making autonomy, if the spiked boot fits….

  5. There is a very interesting interview of Juan Cole on “Democracy Now”, this morning.

  6. Obama appears committed to harsh sanctions

    Real News Network: Gareth Porter: The US has rebuffed several attempts by Iran to negotiate a resolution to the standoff.

    link to iranian.com

    The State Department analysits know that sanctions will not trigger an uprising, revolution or a regime change. They also know VF knows that there are no diplomatic solutions that are acceptable to the US??
    So, what is the real goal of the sanctions?

    • Hold on. The US has rebuffed several attempts by Iran to negotiate a resolution to the nuclear issue by brining in other issues the Iranians want to link to these issues.

      It does not follow that “No diplomatic solutions are acceptable to the US.” The US wants to negotiate a deal on Iran’s nuclear program, in and of itself. The Iranians want to negotiate a deal that brings in other, unrelated issues.

      The real goal of the sanctions is exactly as announced: to coerce Iran into cutting a deal on its nuclear program.

  7. “Among President Obama’s first decisions after his reelection was to further increase already severe sanctions on Iran.”

    This will be a sobering comment to many Obama voters who thought he might reverse his past aggressive policies after re-election. Instead, we are now apparently committed to another Middle East march of folly for which there will be no winners. Again.

    • Remember when Obama took office in his first term he started right away making cabinet choices that left liberals nervous. Within a year or so he basically turned his back on his electoral base. Well, the base came back anyway, so it’s time to repeat the process. Liberals were a pain in the ass to him in 2009, and they still are in 2012/13.

      Obama is who he is. There is a lot more instant gratification from starving Iranians, droning Taliban and al Qaeda brass, and establishing a base in Australia, than working on the safety net.

    • Instead, we are now apparently committed to another Middle East march of folly for which there will be no winners. Again.

      People have been telling me that we’re six months away from a war with Iran since Bush’s first term. Were you one of the people predicting that Obama would give Israel overflight permission over Iraq before the 2011 withdrawal?

      And yet, the confidence with which these predictions are made doesn’t seem to ever recede. Why is that?

  8. Why would Iran shooting at or downing a flying toaster be any more serious than Israel killing an American citizen on the high seas?

    • Cyros the great

      Stop using the Palestinians as stapes holder for persian dominance. OK. You don`t give a damn about arabs. Just look how the shia Ahwaz Arabs are treated in Iran.

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