Since January this year the European Union has made some of the toughest sanctions in its history. According to the spokeswoman of the High representative on Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton, the sanctions are the reason why Iran has agreed to start negotiations. Experts on Iran thinks a solution could have been reached without making civilians suffer.
by Catarina Nedertoft Jessen
The eye of the western world is at the moment staring at Iran. FN, US and EU are sanctioning Iran in an aggressive way. They want the Iranian regime to stop their Atomic Energy programme that they suspect will lead to development of nuclear weapons.
“The least likely outcome of the sanctions is that the regime will fall.”
That is the opinion of Doctor Evaleila Pesaran, who is lecturing about the political economy of Iran in Cambridge University.
Dr. Hans-Gert Pöttinger, member of the European Parliament and former President of the European Parliament, supports the sanctions and believe in their purpose.
“If you think a country is behaving in a bad way, you must express your own position,” Pöttinger says.
Atomic Energy programme – and so what?
A lot of countries are not very subtle about their atomic programmes. The world community knows for a fact that India, Pakistan and Israel are possessing nuclear weapons.
Iran has voluntarily signed the treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Protocol (NPT) that gives UN’s nuclear inspectors permission to inspect nuclear sites in the country. The three earlier mentioned countries have not chosen to do so.
In November 2011 the UN nuclear inspectors made a very sceptical report about Iran’s nuclear programme that insinuate, that the Iranian regime is not only planning to use their nuclear power in a peaceful way.
In January 2012 the UN nuclear inspectors visited Iran again, and they did not think that the Iranian regime was cooperating in a satisfying way.
On the 23 of January, right after the inspectors visit, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs in the European Union, Catherine Ashton, made the decision about the new harder sanctions.
The Iranian Regime is surprised. They claim that their nuclear programme is completely harmless and for energy purposes only.
Civilians are hit the hardest
Almost a third of Iran’s GDP comes from oil rent. The country is therefore facing hard times, when the oil embargo from EU becomes effective from July 2012. EU are also disconnecting 25 Iranian Banks including the Central Bank from the SWIFT system, that makes it possible to make international trade. So even though countries like Russia and China are not sanctioning Iran, it is getting complicated for the Iranians to get paid for the oil crude from any country.
The big problem with the sanctions according to Iran Expert Janne Bjerre Christensen is that the civil population are the ones being hit the hardest.
“As far as I can see the regime is not hit very hard –they might even benefit from the insecurity on the oil prices,” says Janne Bjerre Christensen who works for Danish Institute for International studies and has an PhD in International Studies and specialises in Iran’s foreign- and security policy.
Doctor Evaleila Pesaran agrees that the civilians are hit the hardest and her numbers illustrates the problem; the overall drop in Iranian oil crude exports was already 14 % in March this year. The economic problems of Iran are hitting the poor people and the middle class.
The Iranian currency the Rial has decreased its value by 50 % since September 2011 and prices on food are still rising. These things really make a difference to the Iranian civilians. If you drive in the streets of Tehran you will see long lines in front of the shops buying gold, because the people don’t expect the metals value to fall.
If Iran has nothing to hide then why not cooperate with the UN inspectors? That is the question everyone is asking themselves. The easy answer is, that Iran is working on making nuclear weapons, but according to the experts it might not be that simple.
“Understanding Iran politics is so difficult that some Iranians don’t even understand,” says Bijan Khajehpour, Middle Eastern Economic and Political Analyst from Atieh International
“The Iranian regime thinks that they are the good pupils in class, because they signed up for the NPT-protocol, but they are not acknowledged for their efforts and therefore they want some distance from the Western countries,” says Janne Bjerre Christensen.
India, Pakistan and Israel did not sign up for the NPT-protocol and the UN nuclear inspectors are not allowed to enter these countries. But India, Pakistan and Israel do not get the same kind of behaviour from the EU.
“The double standards are obvious to everyone,” says Janne Bjerre Christensen.
But even though the Iranian regime do not feel they are being treated in a fair matter they have agreed to start negotiations.
“Teherans positive approach to the new round of nuclear negotiations is a signpost that it wishes to deescalate external relations,” says the analyst Bijan Khajehpour.
War is not a solution
Spokeswoman for Catherine Ashton, Maja Kocijancic, feels positive about the development on the Iranian situation after the negotiations in Istanbul on the 14th of April. Next step of the negotiations will be in Bagdad, Iraq.
“In the last year the possibility of war is increasing” says Rouzbeh Parsi Research Fellow at the European Unions Institute for security studies deals with Iran, Iraq and the Persian Gulf.
European External Action Service is putting all their efforts into making a peaceful solution with Iran, and will not comment on what will happen if the negotiations do not go as planned. Using harder methods will not be the way to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
“A war might end up delaying the process of making nuclear weapons, but it will for sure make Iran feel like they need strong weapons if they feel threatened,” says Janne Bjerre Christensen.
Strengthening the sanctions further is also a thing that should be though about very severely before taken action, all the experts agree.
“Once you put sanctions in place they are bloody hard to remove.” Rouzbeh Parsi from EU
The experts also agree that the changes in Irans Atomic Energy Programme won’t be quick, but they believe in a peaceful solution. They are not sure, that the negotiations started because of the sanctions, the Iranian regime has a lot of economic reasons for coorperating with EU and the US, and the experts are worried about the humanitarian situation.
“It would be nice if the EU focused on people and human rights,” says Dr Evaleila Pesaran.