The U.S. sanctions against Iran are already costing human lives. On Sept. 4, the Washington Post published an article, "In Iran, sanctions take toll on the sick," which describes the situation of patients suffering from diseases for which they are unable to find medicine. Drug shortages are particularly affecting "cancer patients and those being treated for complex disorders such as hemophilia, multiple sclerosis and thalassemia, as well as transplant and kidney dialysis patients."
There is the 8-year-old boy Milad, a hemophilia patient, whose family traveled 400 miles to Tehran hoping to find a medicine vital for treating his condition. But the family only managed to find a two-day supply. As a result, Milad "is now at risk of losing the use of his right leg and is suffering continuous nose bleeds that could be life-threatening.”
According to an official from the Tehran Province Thalassemia Association, an NGO, there have been four deaths in Tehran over the past month caused by medicine shortages. Kidney dialysis and transplant patients are also suffering the effects of the shortages, with the impact expected to get worse in the coming months.
These deaths and the suffering of patients are the direct result of the U.S.-imposed sanctions, which also result in high inflation, causing hardships for millions of working-class people struggling to survive while prices for life's necessities are rising rapidly.
U.S. sanctions on Iran are not simply a decision on the part of the U.S. government to refuse to buy oil—the United States has not bought oil from Iran in decades. The sanctions are extra-territorial, effectively banning all other countries in the world from engaging in financial transactions with Iran's banks or risk hefty punishments and the cutting of trade with the United States. As a result, not only is Iran deprived of much of its oil income, the main source of its foreign currency, but it is finding it increasingly difficult to conduct international trade, including in food and medicine.
For public relations purposes, the U.S. government has exempted purchases of food and medicine by Iran from the ban, instead requiring licenses for such transactions. But, as one importer was quoted in the Post article, “The exemption of medicine from sanctions is only in theory. … International banks do not accept Iran’s money for fear of facing U.S. punishment.”
The stated purpose of the sanctions against Iran is to force the government to halt its nuclear program. Imperialist countries accuse Iran of pursuing the goal of nuclear weapons. There is no evidence supporting this accusation despite ongoing inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Why should the Iranian people suffer and die for nuclear weapons that, by all accounts Iran currently does not have, while Israel, which actually has hundreds of nuclear warheads, is not subjected to any punishment whatsoever? Iran's neighbor Pakistan also has nuclear weapons, as does India.
Which countries enforce these sanctions that are causing death and suffering in Iran? Are they countries with a deep moral conviction against nuclear weapons? Are they countries attempting to keep the world safe by preventing all countries from having nuclear bombs? No. They are countries armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, led by the United States, the only country to have ever used nuclear bombs, and the country that currently uses the threat of a nuclear attack on Iran as an "option on the table."
The Washington Post article quotes Ahmad Ghavidel, head of the Iranian Hemophilia Society, as saying of the sanctions, “This is a blatant hostage-taking of the most vulnerable people by countries which claim they care about human rights.”
U.S. sanctions against Iran, like those implemented against Iraq for 12 years prior to the 2003 invasion, are an instrument of regime change. In May 1996, five years into the genocidal sanctions on Iraq, then U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Madeline Albright, was asked whether the deaths of a half-million Iraqi children due to the sanctions was “worth the price.” Albright responded: "We think the price is worth it."
The function of the government in Washington, whether led by Republicans or Democrats, is to safeguard and promote the interests of the big banks and corporations. To Washington and the interests it represents, any number of human lives is "worth it" for achieving this goal, whether it be the lives of Iraqis, Afghans or Iranians, or the lives of U.S. service members.