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An interview by Kourosh Ziabari
James H. Fetzer: The anti-Iran sanctions violate the international law

Many independent and conscientious thinkers and scholars in the world agree with this assumption that the sanctions which the United States and the European Union have imposed on Iran over its nuclear program are inhumane, unjust, contrary to the principles of human rights and constitute an act of war and collective punishment.

6 March 2013

The United States says that the sanctions are put in effect in order to prevent Iran from producing a nuclear bomb but ironically, the United States is the largest possessor of nuclear weapons in the world itself. Even the intelligence agencies of the United States have published official reports which indicate that Iran does not have the intention to build nuclear weapons.

In order to investigate the different aspects of the anti-Iranian sanctions, Iran Review has embarked on a project to do interviews with renowned progressive, anti-war academicians, authors, activists and thinkers and ask them questions about the impact the sanctions have on the life of Iranian people and the prospect of Iran’s nuclear program.

Our today’s guest is Prof. James H. Fetzer, a former U.S. Marine Corps officer and retired professor of philosophy at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Prof. Fetzer has written extensively on the assassination of the U.S. President John F. Kennedy, the 9/11 attacks and the philosophy of science. His 2006 book published by Open Court publication is titled “Render Unto Darwin: Philosophical Aspects of the Christian Right’s Crusade Against Science.”

What follows is the text of Iran Review’s interview with Prof. James H. Fetzer about the anti-Iranian sanctions of the United States and its European partners. This interview was conducted in Tehran while Prof. Fetzer was attending the 3rd Conference on Hollywoodism and Cinema.

Q: The United States has claimed that it wants to obstruct Iran’s nuclear program and prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons, but it has imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil, banking, financial, medical and insurance sectors. Why have the sanctions targeted the daily life of the Iranian people and diverted from the purported objective of nuclear disarmament?

A: This is the most unfortunate consequence of warmongering influences in the United States including senators like Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Dianne Feinstein who have blinders on when it comes to any issue involving a conflict between Israel and any other nation, even the United States. The latest report that the administration is planning to intensify its economic sanctions on Iran is precisely the opposite direction which they have to go. The sanctions, after all, are allegedly because Iran is attempting to develop nuclear weapons, but the fact is that in 2007, 16 American intelligence agencies concluded that Iran was not pursuing a nuclear weapons program. The findings were reaffirmed in 2011 and I don’t understand how the [Obama] administration can disregard the findings of its own intelligence agencies in dealing with a foreign power. Not only that but the sanctions that are being imposed are a form of collective punishment that was ruled to be a violation of international law by the Nuremberg Tribunals after World War II. So to me it’s utterly disgraceful that the United States which is supposed to be a leader among the nations should be imposing collective punishment on a country for an alleged offence its own intelligence agencies claim is not taking place.

Q: Are the sanctions compliant to the standards and norms of the globalized economy in the modern world?

A: Well, it appears that the sanctions are fairly encompassing and even extend to medicine, for example, which in my opinion is simply inexcusable. I cannot see any rationale for imposing the sanctions on the Iranian people and I consider it as a disgrace that the United States is doing so.

Q: So, do you think that concentrating the sanctions on goods such as food staples and medicine is some kind of violation of human rights by the United States and its allies while they claim that they care for the rights of the Iranian people?

A: Absolutely; there’s no doubt about it. It’s a form of collective punishment; it’s irresponsible and a violation of international law. My opinion is that we need a complete transformation of our policy toward Iran, just as during the Nixon administration it brought about a complete transformation of its policy toward China by Nixon going to China. I believe that Obama should come to Iran.

Q: Right. As a number of political analysts have said and some Russian officials have admitted, the ultimate objective of the sanctions is not to simply curb Iran’s nuclear program, but to bring about a regime change in Tehran by turning the people against their own government. What’s your viewpoint regarding this analysis?

A: I think that’s quite a brilliant observation and may very well be the underlying motivation of the sanctions. However, it reflects on this judgment of the Iranian people who are not going to disavow their government but rather stand steadfastly with the government, just as I hope it will come true. Iran and Russia will stand by the people of Syria, and I’m very confident that the people of Iran are not going to hold their government responsible for the sanctions imposed and the violation of international law by the United States.

Q: What do you think about the impact of EU’s oil embargo against Iran on the European economy in the wake of the current economic crisis? Some analysts say that around 15 to 20 percent of the current price of the oil is a result of the EU’s oil embargo. What’s your take on that?

A: Well it’s one of those reasonably predictable consequences of doing an action that you undertake for reasons you may regard as just, which I happened to believe is not the case here remotely but which are going to have effects on other nations in many other ways, so I believe that these are the additional reasons why the sanctions are wrong; they ought to be lifted. We need more communication between the nations, more cooperation and more diplomacy. If not of a warlike stance, indeed historically sanctions of this kind have been regarded as acts of war, just as blockades have been regarded as acts of war perhaps of a less direct form, but nevertheless of that character. It’s despicable that the United States should be imposing sanctions on Iran.

Q: It can be asserted that along with the expansion of the sanctions, the resistance of the Iranian nation has also increased. Can the United States and its allies succeed in bringing the Iranian people to their knees by imposing the hard-hitting sanctions?

A: I think it’s a very unfortunate development in relations between the nations that the United States is committing a tremendous blunder by pursuing this path which I hope it will abandon in short run and treat the Iranian people with respect it deserves and to which it’s entitled.

Q: One of the theories which some political scientists propose is that by issuing repeated war threats against Iran, Israel is trying to persuade the United States and European Union to impose harder sanctions against Iran. Do you agree?

A: I think the real problem in the Middle East is not Iran. Iran has not attacked any other nation for three hundred years. Iran has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran allows inspectors. There’s another country in the Middle East that has 200, 600 and more nuclear weapons, has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty and does not allow inspectors. In my judgment, the cause of unrest and most of the problems in the Middle East do not derive from Iran and any action it has taken, but rather from Israel and the actions it has taken to promote its self-interest and domination of the Middle East.

Q: Complementing the sanctions with threats of military strike and intelligence operations are among the most important advices given by Israel to the United States and Europe. How much successful have they been in these goals such as infiltrating into Iran, sabotaging Iran’s security, assassinating the civilian scientists, etc.?

A: These are the kind of actions which one has to expect from Israel; a rogue nation that violates the international law on a regular basis. Assassinating Iranian scientists is a premier example. In my judgment, Israel is the cause of the major problems in the Middle East, even extending into the United States, intervening in the Middle East in the wake of 9/11 which is a fabricated event intended to promote the interests of Israel and not those of the United States. Estimates are that if there will be an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, a million Iranians will be killed outright. And the cloud of contamination will encompass Afghanistan, Pakistan and India and that will bring about another 35 million premature deaths. The United States should not be associated with anything, any action and any effort that can bring about such a devastating consequence. And a confrontation with that magnitude will be one of the greatest crimes of the human history and it must be avoided.

Q: Iran says that the sanctions have practically led to some economic reforms and self-sufficiency in economic and industrial areas which couldn’t be realized under normal situation. From what aspects is Iran capable of turning the sanctions into new opportunities?

A: Well, my personal opinion is that Iran might want to consider some options in relation to constraining the traffic of oil in the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormouz. This is a very delicate situation. But insofar as the sanctions qualify as acts of war, Iran may need to consider its alternatives which might very well include restricting the flow of oil through the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormouz.

Q: And the final question; how much of Iran’s economic problems emanate from the economic sanctions and how much are related to the other internal factors?

A: That’s a very difficult issue for me to assess given that I’m not an economist intimately familiar with the economic infrastructure of Iran, but I would have to surmise that the sanctions are making a difference and the Iranian people will be far better-off if they were relieved and the sanctions were completely removed and the United States were to undertake normal diplomatic relations with Iran to bring about the solution to any genuine problems that exists between them as opposed to the fabricated, non-existent problems that are being promoted by the warmongers in the American Congress and the Israeli provocateurs.

By Kourosh Ziabari - March 5, 2013
Journalist, writer and media correspondent