¶ … Sanctions in the OPEC World
What sorts of sanctions and punishments should an OPEC nation -- whose petroleum production bring riches almost beyond imagination, and hence is a player on the world's economic battleground -- receive if it launches programs aimed at acquiring nuclear weapons? That is the central question for this paper to review and critique. The best example for what would happen to an OPEC nation that works towards building a nuclear weapon can be viewed by examining what has happened to Iran and its fledgling nuclear program. This paper delves into the sanctions against Iran, and reports the political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal consequences of the sanctions that are now being rescinded. This paper also projects what those painful economic and social / political realities would impose on other oil-producing nations planning a nuclear program. This narrative leads to a clear understanding of the question at hand.
Sanctions on Venezuela
It should be noted at the outset that Iran isn't the only OPEC nation that has had economic sanctions placed on it by the United States. President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order on March 9, 2015, proclaiming that Venezuela has " ... been involved in actions or policies that undermine democratic processes," and that Venezuela has abused "human rights, including against persons involved in antigovernment protests ... " (White House, 2015).
There have also been a "persecution of political opponents" and a "curtailment of press freedoms" in Venezuela, Obama asserted. Hence, "illicit financial flows" of money from "corrupt officials" in Venezuela are blocked vis-a-vis economic sanctions. Hence, the U.S. can freeze assets and deny or revoke visas of Venezuelan officials.
Nuclear Weapons -- A Look at Potential Destruction
To understand why Western-oriented nations shudder at the thought of a nation like Iran possessing a nuclear weapon, a quick look at the destructive power of these weapons provides clarity. The bomb that killed an estimated 92,000 in Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945, had an explosive force equivalent to 12,500 tons of dynamite; but a 1 megaton hydrogen bomb detonated today would be " ... about 80 times the blast power" of the Hiroshima bomb (pbs).
At 1.7 miles from the blast of a 1 megaton hydrogen bomb, a crater 200 feet deep and 1,000-foot wide would be created, the soil would be "highly radioactive" -- and most buildings and humans would be gone. At 2.7 miles from such a blast, "virtually everything is destroyed," including apartment buildings and multi-story buildings; they are "completely blown out" (pbs). Also, 50% of the population living within 2.7 miles will die in this blast.
At 4.7 miles from the hydrogen bomb, windows of office buildings are blown out, and the contents of the buildings' upper floors " ... including the people who were working there, are scattered on the street" (pbs). At 7.4 miles one quarter of the population is severely injured and radiation permeates the area; "flying glass and debris" does severe damage (pbs).
Sovereign States with Nuclear Weapons Today
There are eight sovereign states that currently have nuclear weapons, and five of them are currently under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Those five, in order of their development / acquisition, are: United States, Russia (successor to the Soviet Union), United Kingdom, France and China. Three states -- that are not party to the Treaty -- are known to have nuclear weapons. They are: India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Also, Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons albeit there is considerable vagueness as to whether or not the Jewish state indeed has nuclear weapons.
The Case of Iran -- an OPEC Nation Seeking Nukes
"Iran has long been one of the most important and dangerous sponsors of terrorism in the world ... [and] its support for terrorism has become more aggressive in recent years, motivated by a mix of fear and opportunism. It could become even more aggressive in the years to come, exploiting the perceived protection it would gain if it developed a nuclear weapon or, if thwarted through military force or other means, using terrorists to vent its anger and take revenge ... " (Byman 2012).
When a nation like Iran is recognized as a strong supporter...
In the case of Iran, the Western world has done far more than frown upon the possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. Indeed, the push back against Iran gaining access to nuclear weapons called for strict sanctions, some of which have been in place since the 1979 hostage crisis and Islamic revolution in Iran.
Before presenting the historical overview of sanctions on Iran's nuclear program, it seems worthy to examine Iran's sponsorship of terrorism. There are two serious considerations when looking at Iran's sponsorship of terrorism: a) since Iran has shown an allegiance to groups like Hamas -- the dominant political group in the Palestinian territories that relies on terrorist tactics -- and others, there are legitimate fears that those terrorist groups may obtain access to nuclear weapons; and b) given Iran's fierce hatefulness towards Israel and the United States and lack of moral convictions regarding human rights, it is simply too risky to allow Iran and its terrorist allies to have a nuclear weapon.
Iran supports Lebanese Hezbollah, a major group that specializes in terrorism, and it sponsors the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which was created following the 1979 revolution in order to " ... protect and promote the objectives of the revolution" (Zalman 2013). The IRGC helps train Hezbollah, the Islamic Jihad, and other groups, and evidence shows that the IRGC (funded by Iran) is "funneling funds and arms to Shiite militias" in neighboring Iraq (Zalman).
Why Legal Sanctions Were Placed On Iran
Researcher Mahdeih Aghazadeh has created a narrative -- published in the Journal of Academic Studies -- that reviews the why and how legal sanctions were placed on Iran. When the U.S., and its Western allies in Europe, acquired the backing of the United Nations, the sanctions became part of the legal response to Iran. Clearly, while Iran retained its domestic constitution laws throughout the period of sanctions, the many countries clamping down on Iran had the legal authority to do so. This scenario against Iran is a valuable tool for those wishing to understand what kinds of sanctions could be expected to be placed on another OPEC nation that has aspirations to become a nuclear nation.
Aghazadeh explains that the starting point for U.S. sanctions against Iran was when The Islamic Republic of Iran held American hostages for 444 days in 1979. Subsequent to the launch of the Iranian revolution, Iran began activities that clearly indicated its rogue nation intentions and behaviors.
First, Aghazadeh writes, Iran began exporting its revolutionary philosophy and tactics to Muslim countries in the Middle East and Africa; the " ... Ayatollah Khomeini declared his intention to export the revolution ... " to Hamas and to Hezbollah (Aghazadeh 139). Secondly, it became clear that Iran was providing cash and weapons to terrorists; and thirdly Iran obviously was aspiring to become a "hegemonic power and position in the Middle East and Persian Gulf region ... " by actually going into heavy production of weapons it could export to terrorist groups (Aghazadeh 2013). Lastly, the author points towards the "human rights abuses by the Iranian regime" -- and the key behavior that caused extreme concern by the U.S. and the West was the beginning of the development of Iran's nuclear program.
Iran of course was involved in a war with Iraq (September 1980 to August 1988), and it infuriated Iran that the United States aided Iraq in that contest. But the U.S. could clearly see that Iran was going the way of a terrorist Islamic state, and in 2003, the nuclear program that Iran launched was discovered. This led to the International Atomic Energy Agency's inspections of Iran's nuclear site, and those revelations in turn led to the European Union, the United Nations, and the United States slapping sanctions on Iran (Aghazadeh 139).
The Political and Economic Sanctions on Iran
The sanctions imposed on Iran clearly hurt their economy, and as years went by and more sanctions were imposed, Iran was actually willing to come to the bargaining table and began discussing ways to limit or stop their nuclear program. This portion of the paper is also designed to illustrate the kinds of sanctions that any OPEC country could expect to incur should an OPEC nation began developing a nuclear program.
Meanwhile, continuing the time table and list of sanctions, it was in 1979, after Iranian students took 52 Americans as hostages (by running over the U.S. Embassy, which had been in close cooperation with the hated Shah of Iran, holding them hostage for 444 days), that…
Aghazadeh, Mahdieh. 'A Historical Overview of Sanctions on Iran and Iran's Nuclear Program. Journal of Academic Studies. Vol. 56, 137-160, 2013.
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Soroush, Nazanin, and Madani, Kaveh. 'Every breath your take: the environmental consequences of Iran sanctions.' The Guardian, Recovered December 1, 2015, from http://www.theguardian.com. 2014.
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