Iranian Newspaper Editors Decry Trump's 'Immoral' Sanctions
In a remarkable joint editorial published Monday, the editors of four of Iran’s leading newspapers—Iran, Hamshahri, Etelaat, and Sazandegi—have invoked the United States Declaration of Independence to decry the reimposition of sanctions as a violation of the “unalienable rights” of the Iranian people to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Published in both Persian and English, the editorial casts President Trump’s decision to leave the Iran nuclear deal and to reimpose sanctions as inconsistent with both the spirit of the US constitution and the letter of international law. Drawing extensively on the values of international liberalism and citing an intellectual legacy from “Thomas Jefferson to Francis Fukuyama,” the editorial serves as an example of the increasingly vocal position taken by Iranian editors and journalists when it comes to holding both the Iranian government and foreign governments to task for restrictions on freedom.
Most strikingly, the self-proclaimed “freethinking” and “freestanding” journalists question the claims of the Iranian and US governments alike. “The US government claims that its sanctions are targeted on Iranian governance, not on Iranian people, while Iranian government believes that the sanction would come to no harm,” note the editors. They forcefully disagree, arguing that “contrary to what governments claim, the US tyrannical sanctions have brought about destructive repercussions for the lives of millions of Iranian citizens who legitimately enjoy the right of life under optimal conditions.”
The criticism of the Iranian government’s line of sanctions is especially notable given that two of the four newspapers, Iran and Hamshahri, are affiliated with the presidency and the municipality of Tehran, respectively. Moreover, while Sazandegi is a reformist paper, Etelaat is known to have a conservative outlook, suggesting that the editorial position crosses political lines.
The editors explain that the “access to medicine, drugs and medical equipments” offers “obvious proof” that it is “children, women and men” who are “actually targeted by blind sanctions.” The recession caused by sanctions will see “many job opportunities lost” in industry and agriculture, effects that will “subsequently provoke escalation of poverty among the households, and these households are just those who constitute Iranian people.”
Citing the principles of the International Human Rights Charter, the recent ruling of the International Court of Justice, and the UN Charter’s provisions for the role of the Security Council in the “authorization of any coercive measure, including sanctions,” the editors detail how Trump’s reimposition of sanctions violates international law. This appeal to multilateral institutions and international legal norms, which are under attack by illiberal political movements around the world, is remarkable.
Looking to American leadership at large, the editors question the Trump administration’s might-makes-right approach to international affairs, asking “Is economic power and authority, by its very nature, sufficiently eligible to foreclose the authenticity of collective rationality, removing it from the processes of decision and policy-making in the international arena?” They also ask whether the “eccentric development” of Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal heralds an attempt to undermine the United Nations, “the highest institution in the world that works based on collective rationality and democratic values.”
The editorial ends with an exhortation to “free-thinking peers all around the globe” to “speak out in defense of the truth” lest the achievements of liberal thinkers including “Thomas Jefferson, John Dewey and Walter Lippmann to Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Hayek and Karl Popper and to Isaiah Berlin, Hannah Arendt, Francis Fukuyama” be lost.
High-minded in both principles and style, the editorial is nonetheless an important expression of the kind of righteous indignation felt among many Iranians. For now, the imposition of sanctions is taking place without a clear justification—Iran continues to uphold its commitments under the JCPOA. As such, while there is anger over the Rouhani administration’s somewhat facile reassurances regarding the impact of sanctions, there is greater anger felt towards the Trump administration, which has appeared to cast aside the long-standing liberal principles of American leadership, simply to enact suffering on the Iranian people.
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