Late last week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reported to the UN General Assembly that “sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran have had significant effects on the general population, including an escalation in inflation, a rise in commodities and energy costs, an increase in the rate of unemployment and a shortage of necessary items, including medicine”. Unsurprisingly, these comments were quickly seized upon by President of the National Iranian American Council Trita Parsi, a well-known and influential stooge of the Iranian regime, to justify his demand for an immediate end to the sanctions.
To be sure, ordinary Iranians are suffering. But whilst Mr Ban and the various mouthpieces of the Ayatollahs blame the sanctions, the Iranian people are not buying into the narrative.
When massive protests erupted on the streets of Tehran as the value of the Iranian currency plummeted to record lows last week, there was not a burning American flag to be seen or an anti-Western slogan to be heard. Instead, hundreds of furious demonstrators chanted, “Leave Syria alone! Think of us!” – an outpouring of the anger felt by a majority of Iranians over the $10 billion squandered by Iran’s leaders in support of Bashar al-Assad’s protracted war against the Syrian people.
But it is not just the costly Syrian campaign that provoked the unrest. “I blame the government of Iran for insisting on the continuation of its useless nuclear programme,” said one merchant from the Grand Bazaar in Tehran, where the protests began. “We don’t need nuclear power at the cost of losing our business and livelihood. Can I feed my children nuclear power? Why is the welfare of people the last thing the government thinks about?”
Although UN, US and EU sanctions have undoubtedly reduced the total amount of resources at the disposal of the Iranian state, they cannot dictate how those resources are spent. Ordinary Iranians understand this, and assign blame accordingly. They know that it is the sadistic regime which necessitates the sanctions, rather than the sanctions themselves, that is the cause of their present hardship. Even the Speaker of Iran’s Parliament – not exactly a bastion of dissent – has publicly acknowledged that President Ahmadinejad’s warped priorities and fiscal mismanagement are responsible for “80 percent” of the country’s economic woes.
Nevertheless, the West must not ignore the plight of the Iranian people. When faced with a choice between serving the interests of its population and the interests of its ideology, Iran’s clerical regime is hardwired always to choose the latter. Not even the most comprehensively crippling of sanctions will change that. For this reason, it is imperative that we do everything within our power to facilitate quick and orderly regime change in Tehran. The fate of millions of Iranians depends upon it.