US sanctions on Iran, along with the COVID-19 pandemic and domestic political restrictions, are shrinking the public sphere in Iran, including sociological research and study. The Iranian Sociological Association, a large organization working all across the country, is a research hub that engages the public and the government in tackling society’s problems. Shahrokni explains how its important role is, however, being undermined by immense internal and external pressures.
The Trump administration’s aggressive stance toward Iran defines much of US policy toward the Middle East. Any effort to imagine new paths for US policy in the region will need to reformulate US-Iran relations. Middle East Report reached out to seven scholars and policy analysts for their thoughts on some critical questions. This forum is a preview of MERIP’s forthcoming issue, “Exit Empire – Imagining New Paths for US Policy.”
Voices from the Middle East: Doctors, COVID-19 Patients and Dilemmas of Treatment under Sanctions in Iran
Caring for COVID-19 patients without the proper equipment and medicine is difficult anywhere. In Iran it is especially devastating to know that lives are being lost due to US sanctions. Two pediatricians at provincial hospitals in Iran describe their experiences.
In Iran, the state at first wavered in response to the spread of the coronavirus but eventually led a mass mobilization across the government and military to try to monitor, treat and contain COVID-19. Beyond the official response, charities, mosques and professional groups are responding to the rapid changes in public life with new forms of social organization and grassroots mutual aid.
US sanctions against Iran, along with Iranian government policies, have created insurmountable obstacles for domestic drug manufacturers who are struggling to provide people with the health care they need, especially now as COVID-19 ravages Iran. An Iranian pharmaceutical company employee explains why procuring supplies has become so difficult.
Iran’s parliamentary elections in February handed the conservative supporters of the Supreme Leader a major victory. Abedini and Armin explain how and lay out why the regime is poorly positioned to deal with popular discontent, crushing US sanctions and the spreading coronavirus.
The politics, sensibilities and lives of Iraqis born in the 1970s and 1980s were intimately shaped by harsh US sanctions on essential and non-essential goods, Saddam Hussein’s wars and the US invasion in 2003 with its devastating war and aftermath. What can a young Iraqi possibly hope for now?
From 1990 to 2003, Iraq languished under comprehensive UN sanctions that prohibited foreign trade. When sanctions were finally lifted, many economists and pundits, as well as Iraqis themselves, hoped for a rapidly expanding economy, brisk reconstruction and a return to prosperity. They have been sorely disappointed.
It was February 1987, at the front lines near Khorramshahr, in the south of Iran along the Iraqi border. We had been engaged in heavy battles for over a week. Our troops had penetrated fortified Iraqi positions, and the Iraqis were making us pay: Artillery and mortar shells rained down on us with a vengeance, as did bombs from Iraqi planes.
It is argued that the celebrated Arab protest movements have changed the path of visual arts in the region. Headlines predict that art inspired by the uprisings will be freer and more critical. Artists have partaken in the displays of mass dissent, demonstrating in the streets and protesting further through their work. Inflated claims notwithstanding, and despite unfulfilled hopes, the protests have indeed directed welcome attention to art scenes in Arab cities. Change, many still hope, is finally possible.
Joy Gordon, Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq Sanctions (Harvard, 2010).
Kuwait has its diwaniyyas, Yemen its qat chews. But for languorous trade in rumor, gossip and flashes of political insight, there is no substitute for chain-smoking and eating Iraqi masgouf.
At one of several Iraqi establishments in Sharjah, a down-market cousin of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, the host centered the bulging fish upon a table for six. “Iraq’s economy is like the fish,” he said, laughing. “How much you get depends on how quickly you eat.” It is an apt description of today’s Iraq — the country’s patrimony is literally being divvied up and devoured.
The White House is pressing ahead with its stated goal of persuading the UN Security Council to pass far-reaching sanctions to punish Iran for refusing to suspend its nuclear research program. Sanctions are what President George W. Bush is referring to when he pledges to nervous US allies that he intends to “continue to work together to solve this problem diplomatically.” The non-diplomatic solution in this framing of the “problem,” presumably, would be airstrikes on nuclear facilities in the Islamic Republic.
Since Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s recent Middle East tour concluded without concrete results, and unity talks between Fatah and Hamas remain at a standstill, the possibility of an Israeli-Palestinian political compromise appears bleaker than ever. But Palestinian lives and livelihoods should no longer be held hostage to the reigning diplomatic stagnation.
Secretary Rice’s recent Middle East tour concluded without any discussion of peace between Israel and Palestine. Unity talks between Fatah and Hamas have hit a standstill. In other words, the possibility of an Israeli-Palestinian political compromise appears bleaker than ever. Meanwhile, US and European governments reiterate their demands of the Palestinian Authority after Hamas’ electoral victory in March: recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept past peace accords. While Hamas has repeatedly offered Israel a long-term truce, they have not announced their recognition of the Jewish state.
“All options are on the table,” says President George W. Bush when asked about press reports that the Pentagon is drawing up plans to bomb Iran to derail the nuclear research program there. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shoots back: "The Iranian nation will respond to any blow with double the intensity." Even if Bush’s saber rattling is merely a psychological ploy, and even if the Iranians are also just blowing smoke, the danger is that the cycle of threat and counter-threat could spin out of control.