Tehran slams West over 'irrational' sanctions
Iranian leaders dismissed Wednesday a new UN sanctions draft announced by Washington the previous day, with nuclear energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi calling the proposed measures "irrational actions” that would shift public opinion in Tehran's favour.
REUTERS - Iran’s leaders say they have nothing to fear from a renewed push for U.N. sanctions and hope the move will convince Iranians of Western hostility rather than add to increasing fears for the major oil producer’s economy.
Washington’s announcement on Tuesday of a new sanctions draft backed by China and Russia came a day after Iran agreed a uranium swap with Brazil and Turkey, aimed at outmanoeuvring Western efforts to sanction Iran over its nuclear programme.
As Iranian TV replayed two-day-old pictures of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad holding aloft the hands of Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, officials played up their deal and dismissed the significance of the sanctions threat that swiftly followed.
Ahmadinejad’s senior adviser said the sanctions draft had “no legitimacy at all”, while Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said there was no chance that a new round of sanctions would be approved by the U.N. Security Council.
The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation said the renewed sanctions threat would be seen in the developing world as a bullying attempt by the big powers, and he hoped the measures could still be avoided.
“They (Western countries) invalidate themselves in the view of public opinion by issuing sanctions,” Ali Akbar Salehi told reporters. “There are some wise people among them to avoid doing such irrational actions.”
But with the new restrictions on Iranian banks and other industries looking ever closer, politicians moved to reassure Iranians they would have no more impact that existing sanctions which had failed to cripple the economy.
“Despite all the restrictions that the arrogant countries impose on Iran in the global arena, the Islamic Republic has significant successes in political and economic fields,” Energy Minister Majid Namjou was quoted as saying by ILNA news agency.
Ebrahim Hosseini-Nasab, economics professor at Tehran’s Tarbiat Modares University, also played down the impact of sanctions on the economy.
“Iranian policy makers have learned from experience how to deal with these sanctions,” he said. “The Iranian economy has always had a great deal of resilience ... I don’t believe it will have any crippling effect on the Iranian economy.”
But Morteza Masoumzadeh, a shipping line executive and vice president of the Iranian Business Council in Dubai, a transit route for many Iranian imports, said sanctions had hurt.
“The sanctions clearly have affected our business and already our business is down by 70 percent compared to three years ago,” Masoumzadeh told Reuters in Dubai.
U.S. sanctions imposed in 2007 targeting two Iranian banks with branches in Dubai had been particularly painful, he said. But that did not mean new U.N. measures would make things worse.
“The sanctions have already hit us so I don’t think anything of this nature will hit us further,” he said.
Ali Ansari, an Iran expert at St Andrews University in Scotland, said the new sanctions could have a psychological impact and, if properly targeted, could hinder the powerful Revolutionary Guards, the elite military force which has become a major economic player.
“However, I have always felt that the sanctions will be a minor irritant as compared the Ahmadinejad government’s own mismanagement of the economy and the lifting of subsidies,” Ansari told Reuters.
That plan—to stop huge subsidies on fuel and food and replace them with cash handouts for the less well-off—will begin in September and will be a huge economic and political test for Ahmadinejad who was re-elected last June despite a popular opposition movement which complained of vote rigging.
Nastaran, a 29-year-old computer engineer in Tehran, said she hoped the new sanctions could be introduced without hurting the people.
“The West should impose sanctions that put pressure on Iran’s government instead of ordinary people,” she said. “In this way the government would have no choice but to change its policies or hand over the country.”