The European Union’s recent announcement of stronger sanctions against Iran shows the extent of current western hostility towards that country. The latest sanctions will freeze assets held in the EU by 30 Iranian bodies, including the National Iranian Oil Company, the National Iranian Tanker Company, and the Naftiran Intertrade Company. Restrictions have also been imposed on Iran’s Central bank and other Iranian banks. The main European satellite provider Eutelsat has also stopped carrying 19 Iranian state-run stations, though in Europe these are still accessible on the internet. Other sanctions already in place often make it necessary for Iranian civil aircraft to leave Iran with full tanks and reduced cargo, and then to interrupt return flights for refuelling in non-EU countries. Of course the sanctions also protect specific western interests; for example, the Shah Deniz oil project in Azerbaijan, which is jointly led by BP and Norway’s Statoil and in which Naftiran has a 10 per cent stake, will be exempt. The EU claims the measures, which now cover natural gas and apply over and above the progressively strengthened and widened ones the United States has imposed on Iran since 1987, are meant to put more pressure on President Ahmadinejad’s government in Tehran over its nuclear enrichment and missile programmes. Iran denies having a nuclear weapons programme, and its strongest international supporter, Russia, says the EU move is a blow to the unity of the six countries — the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany — which are negotiating nuclear issues with Tehran.

The entire western approach, however, is raising tensions without cease, and harming ordinary Iranians. The average Iranian passenger plane is 24 years old; with international maintenance contracts in abeyance, grounded machines are being cannibalised for spare parts. Air travel by the country’s carriers is increasingly dangerous. The greatest hurt, however, is being caused to millions of Iranian citizens; lives are at risk because shipments of medicines, including those from individuals to their families, are being blocked. Iranian opposition figures are on record saying sanctions will only encourage the country’s hardliners. Yet U.S. politicians have adopted an increasingly menacing tone. Representative Brad Sherman says of harm to the Iranian people, “…we need to do just that.” Senator Mark Kirk says so much suffering must be inflicted on the people that they rebel. Prudence suggests the U.S. and the EU must leave all parties room for compromise, or war will loom ever larger. The West has clearly learned nothing from its misadventures in West Asia.

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