Sanctions on Iran: plight or blessing?

As the ongoing US-led campaign to impose sanctions on Iran continues to ferment, most analysts and politicians in the West and the Middle East agree that economic sanctions will not succeed in coercing Tehran into halting or even postponing its nuclear programme.

As the ongoing US-led campaign to impose sanctions on Iran continues to ferment, most analysts and politicians in the West and the Middle East agree that economic sanctions will not succeed in coercing Tehran into halting or even postponing its nuclear programme. "The Iranian regime has proved repeatedly during the last three decades that it is capable of adjusting to any outside difficulties and obstacles," commented Saad Mehio, a columnist with the Emirati newspaper Al Khaleej.

Some Iranian leaders went as far as saying that such sanctions might prove to be beneficial for the country given that they will urge the Iranian people to increase their industrial and agricultural production that will ensure self-sufficiency in the event of an embargo. Although this rationale can be true in some cases, when outside challenges breed a will for national resistance, the fact remains that the issue is not limited to sanctions. There's a possibility that the sanctions are aimed at throwing the Islamic regime into a dogged arms race. Tehran would see itself allocating most of its wealth and resources to armament and nuclear programmes to the detriment of economic and social development plans. This scenario conjures memories of the Soviet Union, which was led into the same trap that eventually led to its dismantling.

Seven years have gone by since the invasion of Iraq, noted Abdul Rahman al Rashed in a column for the pan-Arab newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat. Soon after the attack was launched, US military chiefs claimed that, in 10 days, Saddam's regime had crumbled and democracy started to take root where dictatorship once ruled. The fact is, seven years on, US soldiers are still dying on Iraqi soil.

"The Iraqi issue is an important pivot in the history of the region and in the system of international relationships after the Cold War." The Iraqi experience gave the world a number of lessons that must be observed in future crises. It proved, for instance, that "brawn without brains can spoil the greatest of victories". This is evidenced by the US failure to manage its purported success in the country. Furthermore, the occupation has weakened both Iraq and Afghanistan to the benefit of Iran, in a region where everyone abides by a delicate balance of power.

"The US fiasco revealed an incredible ignorance at the US administration level." This eventually rallied the existing regimes in the region against Washington's project for the Middle East. Iran, too, can draw a lesson from the Iraqi affair, for it shouldn't forget that it was Saddam's obduracy and imprudence that cost him the presidency, and eventually his life, for America will not shy away from yet another war folly, this time against Iran and its allies.

When the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that both East and West Jerusalem form the capital of a unified Israel, the Arabs convened at the Sirte summit and reaffirmed support for a Palestinian Jerusalem, wrote Saleem Nassar in the Palestinian newspaper Al Quds. But this is not the first time that Israel has pushed for the Judaisation of the holy city. Israel's efforts to annex Jerusalem can be traced back to the early 1950s, when it started relocating government bodies to West Jerusalem. In 1996, the Israeli lobby in the US Congress pressured the administration at the time to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the western part of the holy city.

"Then Senators Bob Dole, a Republican, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat, took charge of peddling this project. The pair presented a draft law conditioning the funds of the congressional foreign affairs commission by a timeline for the construction of the US embassy in Jerusalem." Though the 62 votes it received were not enough to pass the measure, the then US secretary of state, Warren Christopher, felt the bill was becoming a threat to the US's "impartial mediator" role and opposed it publicly. Since 1996, Israel has been acting as though East Jerusalem was under the de facto aegis of the mayor of West Jerusalem. And it is still pressing ahead to claim a de jure control of the city.

"The problem with elections in some Arab countries is that they are often a façade for an undemocratic situation and they are the result of social and religious divisions," wrote Nassouh al Majali in the comment pages of the Jordanian newspaper Al Rai.

In fact, most elections in this region take on the appearance of confrontations that often lead to strife. Take Iraq, for example. Weeks after the elections took place, the country is still in turmoil over the results. "Elsewhere, in Sudan, the elections might be crucial as the battle unfolds between the country's three main components: the ruling North, the separatist South and conflicted Darfur. It is evident that the Sudanese regime is being subjected to outside pressure aiming to weaken it."

What is at stake in these Sudanese elections is that they are obligatory for the US-backed popular referendum in the South to take place. This prompted the Southern People's Liberation Movement to limit its participation in the elections, thus emphasising its choice of separation. In conclusion, elections in the Arab world don't necessary reflect democracy but rather hidden designs and avarice. * Digest compiled by Racha Makarem