|Banking sanctions on Iran mean cancer patients cannot access life-saving drugs: Jack Straw||
TEHRAN – Banking sanctions against Iran mean that cancer patients cannot access life-saving imported drugs, even though formally these have been exempt from control, former British foreign secretary Jack Straw, who recently visited Iran, wrote in an article published in The Independent on Friday.
Following is an excerpt of the article entitled ‘In Hasan Rouhani’s Iran, you can feel the winds of change’:
As the British Parliamentary delegation was driven early last week from Khomeini Airport to our hotel in downtown Tehran I was struck by the amount of infrastructure building there had been in the nine years since I’d last visited, with new motorways and new metro lines under construction. Sanctions notwithstanding, Tehran looks and feels these days more like Madrid or Athens than it does, say, Mumbai or Cairo.
My first visit to Iran was in late September 2001, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. The moderate Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami, had courageously reached out to the United States with moral, and much practical, support in the struggle to counter al-Qa’ida.
Then, I went straight from Tehran to Israel. The Israelis concocted a diplomatic row over my using the noun “Palestine” rather than the adjective “Palestinian” in an article for the Iranian press. A banquet for me was cancelled and my meeting with the then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was delayed until the small hours. Behind this grammatical nonsense there was a much bigger issue – as there still is – about whether Israel wanted an end to the isolation of Iran, or whether it suited them for Iran to be damned as a “pariah state” for all time.
Since Israeli and American politics are so intertwined, this was a major question for the U.S. government, too. There are more American PhDs in Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s Cabinet than there are in U.S. President Barack Obama’s Cabinet. Yet the U.S. quickly squandered all the potential of Mr. Khatami’s bid for rapprochement with the West, with the ill-judged inclusion of Iran in President George W Bush’s “axis of evil”. Indeed, U.S. policy so undermined the Khatami administration that the reformists lost ground…
President Rouhani’s election last summer was as overwhelming as it was surprising. “He only had 5 per cent in the polls when we started”, one proud supporter told us.
The election of a relative moderate, President Hassan Rouhani, has paved the way for a thaw in ties between Iran and the UK. In Iran, “it’s the economy, stupid” which will determine Mr. Rouhani’s ultimate success – or failure. He has made a good start. Sustained economic recovery depends in part on internal reform, but also on an end to the nuclear-related sanctions. “Crippling” was how one minister described them – adding, though, that they had been “welcomed [by some in Iran] – as corrupt and enriching”.
Sanctions can have eccentric effects. Five hundred Porsches were imported last year, it is claimed. Coca-Cola is freely available; but banking sanctions mean that cancer patients cannot access life-saving imported drugs, even though formally these have been exempt from control.
November’s interim deal agreed in Geneva between Iran and the “P5 + 1” (the five Permanent Members of the Security Council, plus Germany) [came] into force on Monday. There’s an obvious prize for Iran in ending all sanctions. There is for the UK too. Above and beyond big trade opportunities, a normalization of relations will have profound benefits, not least in those troubled countries – Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine – where Iran has such influence.
Ariel Sharon split from his Likud Party when Bibi Netanyahu refused to countenance an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Whether a comprehensive deal on Iran can be reached will crucially depend on how far Mr. Obama is able to resist the intense lobbying (and financial support) Mr. Netanyahu is able to muster in the U.S. Congress. Hopefully, Mr. Obama will be as dismissive of Mr. Netanyahu’s myopia as was Mr. Sharon.
For this time, no deal with Iran does not mean Iran will stay isolated... Rather, it will lead to a ragged erosion of sanctions. Russia and China will pull away. Pressure from European exporters will increase – especially from Italy and Germany.
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