The Forgotten Humanitarian Aspect of the Conflict Between the U.S. and Iran

Posted by mahendra on October 30th, 2019

In the 1999 anti-war film "Three Kings," a group of United States Army reservists attempt to steal Kuwaiti gold that had been seized by Iraqi forces during the Persian Gulf War. From a socioeconomic point of view, the civilian lives of the soldiers portrayed in "Three Kings" are disappointing, thus making it easy for them to agree to the heist, which is orchestrated by a special forces operator who is disappointed with the American intervention in the war, but who also feels that a couple of million dollars will help him to forget about this Army experience upon retirement.

Without spoiling the film for those who have yet to see it, the U.S. Army thieves come across a situation whereby they decide to escort a group of Iraqi rebels, who plan to overthrow Saddam Hussein, across the border and into Iran. The soldiers set aside their larcenous greed in the name of humanitarian action, and they know that Iranian guards at the border will give the Iraqi rebels asylum. Quite a few movies have similar plot devices; the film noir genre, for example, often features antiheroes with a heart of gold who give up a shot at mending their sad lives in exchange for performing a humanitarian cause.

In real life, the conflict between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran is not resembling the movies. For most of the current century, a humanitarian crisis has been developing in Iran; the situation was briefly improved with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal, but United States President Donald Trump derailed it in 2018. We all know about the tense situation in the Strait of Hormuz, a maritime passage where military drones are shut down, oil tankers are compromised, and naval forces from the U.S. and Iran patrol with gritted teeth, but few headlines are published about what is happening to families and communities within Iran.

Decades of harsh economic sanctions spearheaded by the U.S. and ratified by allied nations have made life very difficult for millions of people in Iran, a country that has traditionally suffered from deep income and wealth inequality. Iran has serious economic problems, but unlike Venezuela, a nation that is able to trade oil for food and medicine, the strict economic sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic prevent this type of humanitarian trading.

The exchange value of the Iranian rial has plummeted to more than 30,000 to one U.S. dollar, and this has a lot to do with financial trading sanctions. The national rate of inflation has skyrocketed to 37 percent, prompting foreign companies to flee and creating an unemployment rate near 15%. Food and common household goods are getting more expensive on a daily basis, and this why humanitarian trade arrangements are desperately needed.

To learn more about how the complexities of the U.S. - Iran conflict are making life very difficult for the low-income and middle-class segments of Iranian society, the writings of energy attorney Amir Handjani are highly recommended for their microeconomic insider perspective, and you can find them in Bloomberg as well as in Foreign Policy magazine.

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