Friday, January 25, 2013

Economist speaks at IPN open house

By Michael Gillespie

Ismael Hossein-zadeh, professor emeritus of economics at Drake University in Des Moines, discussed U.S. and Israeli policy and posturing toward Iran at a Dec. 16 open house sponsored by the Iowa Peace Network at the Stover Memorial Church of the Brethren in Des Moines. Author of The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave–Macmillan, 2007), Hossein-zadeh is also a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press, 2012).

“Iran is subjected to crushing sanctions,” said the Iranian native, a U.S. citizen who has traveled to Iran in recent years. Iran cannot sell oil on the open market, Hossein-zadeh noted, and banking transactions are severely limited by the sanctions. “As a result, many essential goods cannot get into the country. There are reliable reports that many Iranians, children and the elderly, are suffering because they cannot get the medications they need. They have begun to perish—to die—as a result,” he said.

“Unfortunately, this is almost exactly the same thing that happened in Iraq during the sanctions in that country [from 1990 to 2003]. The United Nations reported that 500,000 children under the age of 5 years died as a result of those sanctions. And now we see a similar situation developing in Iran,” said Hossein-zadeh, whose family of origin still lives in Iran.

“Although the apparent rationale is to sanction government or government-related entities or military-related items, in practice the sanctions are affecting the food supply, medicines, and other necessities,” the political economist declared.

The purpose of the sanctions is to make people so miserable that they will rise up and change the government, he continued—something that never happened in Iraq. Instead there are indications that the sanctions against Iran are having an opposite effect, increasing popular support for and mobilizing people behind the government, said Hossein-zadeh.

“I’m afraid that if the sanctions do not bring down the government, the Western powers may engage in military action, but that depends on what may happen in Syria. If the Syrian regime falls, the next target for regime change would be Iran,” he warned.

Those who benefit from war economically and geopolitically, as Israel does, unfortunately don’t look at the terrible damage and casualties of war. They look at the profits involved and the perceived political advantages that result, Hossein-zadeh observed.

“For a wealthy country such as the United States, where a huge segment of the economy has become dependent on military spending, as the late [American writer] Gore Vidal noted, ‘permanent war has become a sad necessity,’” lamented Hossein-zadeh. “Furthermore, smaller countries, including Iran, no matter how anti-imperialist, anti-interventionist they are and how valiantly they may fight—and they will—eventually they get tired and run out of resources, whereas for Western powers, for them war is good business and can go on for many years.”

According to Hossein-zadeh,, Russia and China have not been as decisive in preventing regime-changing conflicts in Libya, Syria and Iraq (unlike the U.S. and the Western powers, which are determined to overthrow various regimes). Part of the reason for Moscow’s and Beijing’s ambivalence is a lack of unity in the leadership regarding opposition to the policies of Western powers. This is because the ruling powers in both Russia and China are divided between pro-Western millionaires and billionaires and anti-imperialist nationalists.

“Perhaps you have heard or read that [outside of the U.S.] in proportional and absolute terms, the highest number of billionaires is in Russia and China. That’s why the decision-making powers and hierarchies are not as unified and as anti-Western as they once were. Those millionaires and billionaires who build up fat bank accounts in Western banks—they love a neo-liberal economy like that in the West,” Hossein-zadeh concluded.

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