The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 77/No. 10      March 18, 2013

US Congress prepares new
trade sanctions against Iran
In a display of bipartisan unity, Congress is preparing to further expand U.S. sanctions against Iran to what would amount to “a commercial trade embargo if fully carried out,” according to the New York Times.

For years, Washington has waged a campaign to force Tehran to abandon its program of nuclear research, which the U.S. government and its allies say is geared toward making nuclear weapons. The Iranian government maintains its program is for power generation and medical purposes.

Republican Rep. Ed Royce from California, who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Eliot Engel from New York, the committee’s ranking Democrat, jointly introduced legislation Feb. 27 “intended to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons ability,” the Times reported.

The measure would expand the list of blacklisted Iranian companies to all those under government management and potentially freeze Iran’s foreign bank assets held in euros, one of its few remaining ways to repatriate profits from foreign trade.

Two days later, Senators Lindsey Graham, a Republican, and Democrat Roberto Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced a resolution stating, “The United States government should stand with Israel and provide diplomatic, military and economic support” in the event Tel Aviv takes military action against Iran. President Barack Obama is expected to visit Israel for the first time as president later this month.

At the same time, talks on Iran’s nuclear program resumed Feb. 26-27 between Tehran and representatives of the U.N. Security Council—China, France, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S.—and Germany. Held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Central Asia, these were the first such talks since June last year.

“Threatening Iran is not going to work,” Mohammad Khazaee, Iran’s ambassador to the U.N., told CNN March 3. “As soon as you say, ‘We are ready to talk to you and work with you, but at the same time, we punish you and put pressure on you and your people’—Iran cannot accept that.”

Meanwhile, another set of sanctions adopted in July by Congress kicked in Feb. 6, blocking Iran from direct access to revenue from oil sales to nine countries. Instead, it can only receive credit to purchase goods from those countries, which include Iran’s biggest oil customers, among them China, India and Turkey. The measures add to earlier sanctions that have increasingly forced Iran into oil-for-goods barter deals with its trading partners.

According to a New York Times Feb. 26 report, the six government representatives at the Almaty talks were planning to offer Iran an easing of sanctions on trade in precious metals in exchange for Tehran’s agreement to stop enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity, shut down its Fordo underground enrichment facility, and ship abroad its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium for conversion to nuclear fuel.

Sanctions on Iran’s trade in gold and other precious metals were signed into law by President Barack Obama at the beginning of January, aimed at preventing countries from trading these metals for Iranian oil and gas.

Tehran has insisted that before any agreement could be reached, all sanctions be lifted and Iran’s “right to enrich uranium” be recognized as a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Workers resist economic squeeze

Years of imperialist sanctions appear to have their intended effects, which include not only damaging Iran’s economy, but imposing hardship on working people there and feeding factional tensions among the country’s rulers.

According to a Feb. 24 Financial Times article, Iran’s national currency, the rial, fell by about 60 percent last year under the combined impact of U.S. and European Union sanctions.

Inflation is officially at 28.7 percent and youth unemployment at 28.6 percent. In the last two weeks of January, prices of chicken, eggs and rice have increased 23 percent, 30 percent and 37 percent respectively.

Bosses in Iran are taking aim at working people, who in some cases are fighting back.

For example, the Free Labor Union of Iran website and other dispatches reported that the 1,200 workers at the Safa Pipe Rolling factory in Saveh ended a five-day strike Feb. 7 after the employer finally paid their September wages. This was the second strike by these workers in two months over outstanding wages.

The Iranian parliament approved a plan Feb. 24 to subsidize basic food staples like rice, vegetable oil and meat, the Financial Times reported.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s supporters in parliament voted against the food subsidy plan, the Times said, claiming “there was no economic crisis in Iran.” Politicians backing Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who pressed for the subsidies, have been blaming Iran’s economic problems on Ahmadinejad’s policies. Ahmadinejad’s second and final term will end with elections in June.

Related articles:
Oppose imperialist squeeze on Iran!
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home