Economic sanctions in Iran and around the world have not only been ineffective, but have lead to increased hostility, militarism, and distrust. What if there was another economic means to pacifying the interactions between the United States and Iran? What if this solution has already proven to be successful in the modern era?
The development of economic partnerships, rather than sanctions, is an alternative to the predominant strategies of the current global order; a strategy that would, “Make it plain that any war…becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible,”1 as stated by former French Prime Minister and first ever President of the European Assembly (the parliamentary institution of the European Union) Robert Schuman. Identifying the disastrous consequences of repeated conflict in Europe, Schuman paved the way for the creation of the European Union through his declaration and development of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). To this day there has not been an armed conflict between members of the European Union and ECSC partnership, a partnership formed only five years after World War II ravaged across Europe.*
Contrary to popular American media depictions of Iran, it is currently the world’s 17th largest economy.2 Not only does this mean that the United States and other Western nations are hurting themselves financially with their current push toward economic sanctions, including a “comprehensive ban on U.S. trade and investment in Iran” which was renewed by President Obama in 20103, but that these countries are also cultivating continued hostile interactions with a state that has the infrastructure necessary to develop a significant war economy, even without the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Jan Oberg wrote while studying the European Union;
“There are basically two main views about how world peace can be created. One of these states that all countries and supranational unites need, first and foremost, defense and security based on military strength. This view accepts that a force for good exists which to a certain degree balances or eradicates the force for evil. The other maintains that what is needed is a greater understanding of conflict, more professional conflict management and principled problematization of violence itself and that when we have achieved that, there will be less need for military force in the world.”4
This is the decision we must make in our society; the decision between a negative peace defined simply by the absence of war and a positive peace which is made known through a dedication to equity and justice. The current economic sanctions in place on Iran make a statement of false superiority and a blatantly offensive push toward the eradication of an evil ‘lesser’.
Iran has the potential to be a threat to the United States. A nuclear proliferated Iran is a threat to the entire global populace. These threats though are no greater than the threat of America’s strategic intervention and drone warfare doctrines or the latently accepted proliferation of the entire permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council. If we are to create a more peaceful world we must have more principled and professional solutions to conflict and threats than economic sanctions and military posturing.
As Robert Schuman stated, “World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it.”1 President Obama has stated that economic sanctions are “a powerful tool”5, but in reality they only serve to subjugate the general populations of the global polity which raising tensions to evermore dangerous levels. Some of the highest tensions currently are between nuclear armed India and Pakistan, a region in which a limited nuclear conflict could kill one billion globally. Currently only 1% of India and Pakistan’s bilateral global trade accounts are with each other despite World Trade Organization Most Favored Nation statuses, corresponding demands and competitive advantages, and numerous logistic benefits related to their shared borders. Some reports state that the removal of sanctions between India and Pakistan would increase the value of their trade from the current annual sum of $200 million to a conflict deterring $3-4 billion a year.6
It is imperative that the United States and its ideological and economic partners change their strategy in relation to Iran away from dividing our globe and toward tying ourselves closer together. Not only would this erase the need for ever increasing military forces, including nuclear arsenals, but it would also benefit all sides economically while increasing global living conditions. The time has come to turn our guns into plowshares and every other means of economic development. The true path to peace does not come from increasing difference and division but from the partnerships and open dialogue that can only be forged through humility and openness.
*While the Turbot War has been sited as the only armed conflict between European Union member states, I would argue that, A) this fishing dispute contained no utilization of military force, and B) the partnerships held within the EU actually lessoned the conflict and played a direct roll in Spain’s acceptance of the April 15th settlement.
1 Schuman, Robert, “The Schuman Declaration,” European Union. May 9, 1950.
2 “Gross Domestic Product 2010, PPT,” The World Bank. July 1, 2011.
3 Bruno, Greg, “The Lengthening List of Iran Sanctions,” Council on Foreign Relations. April 30, 2012.
4 Oberg, Jan, “Does the European Union Promote Peace?” The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research. 2006.
5 Obama, Barack, “Statement by the President on H.R. 2194,” The White House. July 1, 2010.
6 “Forging an India-Pakistan Economic Partnership,” Asia Economic Institute.