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SANCTIONS against IRAN might not PASS the IMMORAL test! LOOK WHO agrees! HINT: It’s REAGAN and THATCHER!

I am reading with interest the “deal” brokered between various Western nations and Iran.  I do think it should be clear:  No one but a madman wants Iran to have a nuclear bomb.  (My clause I’d put in to ensure compliance:  Israel polices compliance!  Wouldn’t you hate being on that compliance team?  Talk about needing a food taster!)  And I thought it was a great debate between Ron Paul and Rick Santorum over Iran in one of the 2012 debates, although I am not totally sure I agree with either one, I was closer to the Paul position.  I’d rather be Paul the non-interventionist than Santorum gloating over economic sanctions.

For I am concerned about economic sanctions.  I think that unless the sanctions are targeted to affect the rulers of the nation, they are immoral.  It should be nearly a war crime to enact sanctions against innocent people.  It is not right to subject innocent and politically voiceless people to the destruction of their economy to enforce some sort of international law norm.  I am especially afraid that the lesson learned here will be:  Sanctions work.  Yes they work.  But at what price.  I would have asked them, had I been at the debate between Paul and Santorum, what about the people of Iran?  What about the poor tailor or single parent in Iran trying to get by and take care of his family?  It’s not your economy you are destroying.

Here is a summary of the sanctions against Iran from the US Treasury.  Here is a preamble:

Iranian Transactions Regulations - 31 C.F.R. Part 560

As a result of Iran’s support for international terrorism and its aggressive
actions against non-belligerent shipping in the Persian Gulf, President Reagan,
on October 29, 1987, issued Executive Order 12613 imposing a new import embargo
on Iranian-origin goods and services. Section 505 of the International Security
and Development Cooperation Act of 1985 (“ISDCA”) was utilized as the statutory
authority for the embargo, which gave rise to the Iranian Transactions
Regulations, Title 31, Part 560 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (the

Effective March 16, 1995, as a result of Iranian support of international
terrorism and Iran’s active pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, President
Clinton issued Executive Order 12957 prohibiting U.S. involvement with petroleum
development in Iran. On May 6, 1995, he signed Executive Order 12959, pursuant
to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (“IEEPA”) as well as the
ISDCA, substantially tightening sanctions against Iran.

On August 19, 1997, the President signed Executive Order 13059 clarifying
Executive Orders 12957 and 12959 and confirming that virtually all trade and
investment activities with Iran by U.S. persons, wherever located, are

Effective November 10, 2008, the authorization for “U-turn” transfers involving
Iran was revoked.  As of that date, U.S. depository institutions are no longer
authorized to process transfers involving Iran that originate and end with
non-Iranian foreign banks.  Details concerning the revocation of the U-turn
authorization and a description of currently permissible funds transfers can be
found in the Financial Dealings with Iran section of this document.

Effective September 29, 2010, the authorization to import into the United
States, and deal in, certain foodstuffs and carpets of Iranian origin was
revoked pursuant to section 103 of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions,
Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010.  The exceptions to the prohibition
on importing goods and services are listed in the IMPORTS FROM IRAN section of
this document. 

Criminal penalties for violations of the Iranian Transactions Regulations may
result in a fine up to $1,000,000, and natural persons may be imprisoned for up
to 20 years. Civil penalties, which are not to exceed the greater of $250,000 or
an amount that is twice the amount of the transaction that is the basis of the
violation with respect to which the penalty is imposed may also be imposed

I should give a legal disclaimer that in light of these serious criminal penalties that people ought not even come close to breaking any of these sanctions.  And I am not sure if these sanctions fit the Sanders test of immorality if they target of hurt innocents.  But I strongly suspect that these trade and currency sanctions do fail the Sanders test.  I am not sure what to do or how to target the sanctions to affect only the ruling class but I cannot support economic sanctions without such understandings.

There was a time when conservatives agreed:  Economic sanctions that target innocents are immoral!  Try this in Pat Buchanan’s latest column about what both Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan said these things about sanctions:


“Apartheid is an affront to human rights and human dignity. Normal and friendly relations cannot exist between the United States and South Africa until it becomes a dead policy. Americans are of one mind and one heart on this issue.”

So said Ronald Reagan in his 1986 message to Congress vetoing the “sweeping and punitive sanctions” Congress was seeking to impose.

Reagan equated the sanctions to “declaring economic warfare on the people of South Africa.”


“The Prime Minister of Great Britain has denounced punitive sanctions as immoral and utterly repugnant,” said Reagan in July of 1986, “Mrs. Thatcher is right.”

I am a great believer in controlling authority in law – well, Reagan and Thatcher are pretty close to controlling political authority for me!  Economic sanctions against Iran are immoral unless they are targeted to affect decision makers and not innocents.  I do not believe these sanctions follow that test although I can be persuaded otherwise.


About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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