Huffpost WorldPost
Trita Parsi Headshot

The Question That Is Rarely Asked

Posted: Updated:
Flickr: Newtown grafitti
Flickr: Newtown grafitti

A little less than four years ago, Iranians from all walks of life poured onto the streets and demanded that their votes be counted. At one point, an estimated 3 million people were out in the streets of Tehran demanding their rights.

But the Iranian regime responded with violence, fraud and more repression.

The painfully slow process of moving Iran towards a more democratic political structure was dealt a significant blow.

Ever since, things have only gotten worse. Iran's relations with the outside world have worsened, diplomacy on the nuclear issue has been compromised, the risk of war has increased and crippling American and European sanctions has strangulated the Iranian economy.

The sanctions have been overly celebrated by Washington, winning support due to the questionable argument that they will help evade war. Even before talks have restarted and signs emerged that the pressure has softened Tehran's position, sanctions have already been celebrated as a success for "bringing Iran back to the table."

I argue in a piece at Peter Beinart's OpenZion yesterday that sanctions are not necessary to get a deal, but they have been deemed necessary to secure a dose of humiliation of the Iranians that will make clear that Iran's nuclear activities have not been rewarded but punished.

The question that is rarely asked is what the effect of the sanctions has been on the people of Iran, in particular the pro-democracy forces that so bravely have been fighting for their rights. While their concerns will never be at the center of Washington's calculations (though lip service will be paid to them), it would be foolish to ignore how Iran's prospective future leaders have been affected by the economic strangulation and what they think of it.

In this short 3-minute video, some of these brave agents for democracy send a sad and grim New Year's greeting to the Iranian-American community.

But all of America deserves to hear their message, because we cannot plead ignorance. Sanctions killed up to 500,000 women and children in Iraq, according to the UN. It did not lead to the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime or a softening of his position, but rather the disastrous invasion of that country.