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Attack of “The Fog”: The Dark Side of U.S. Sanctions Hover above Iran for More Than a Week

Often reported are the callous sanctions affecting Iranians in terms of medical conditions, devaluation of their currency, and the spike in prices of meats as well as other goods. Rarely have we seen the dark side of sanctions on the environment. The increasing pollution in Iran bolstered by U.S. led sanctions should alarm not only Iranians yet earth inhabitants on a macro scale. Pollution anywhere is pollution everywhere for what goes up must come down. Pollution has its effects on the atmosphere/ ozone layer, the biosphere and on the lithosphere. Above all, these toxins make way for harmful, long term effects on every living, breathing, and productive creature (human, plant and animal). It is time for those still in touch with nature and what it means to be human to speak against these

murderous sanctions on Iran now.

The streets of Iran today are reminiscent of scenes years ago in America during the industrial revolution. At this time increased use of cheap coal and fossil fuel made way for virtual veils of smog throughout America. During the century of the industrial revolution U.S. had no alternatives to clean fuels. They knew very little of their harmful effects. It was over half a century later during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt subsequent to many deaths and the realization of causal effects from pollution… The U.S. had decided to seek out alternatives to spare lives and the atmosphere from further contamination, acknowledging that the people had a legal right to clean air!  Because of imposed sanctions by U.S. Iranian people are virtually suffering as Americans once did during the industrial revolution. They are confined to a highly contaminated environment caused by poor use of cheap fuel. No alternative fuels are available in Iran to combat the contamination. There are only changes in weather that break down toxic smog particles or blow them away. This new imposition on Iranian livelihood arose after U.S. stripped Iran from their rights to obtain clean fuel from elsewhere. In other words Iran was restricted from its legal right in fostering clean air by western transgressors. In an attempt to combat its economical woes brought on by sanctions, Iran began to produce its own fuel. Now a virtual veil of smog has covered many regions of Iran like Tehran, Qazvin and Isfahan. Perhaps it is better now Iranian women wear face covering or Nikab to battle fumes and chemicals! American human rights groups need not whine about the veil any longer. For a larger, more harmful and dimmer veil has been placed over Iran thanks to Obama’s new and “genius” sanctions…

Figure1. Picture capturing the dense smog caused by fossil fuel production during the American Industrial Revolution.

When sanctions on Iran were imposed by the Obama administration nearly three years ago, Iran was given no other choice to keep the economy on track rather than producing its own fuel. In turn this caused a massive buildup of smog to accumulate.  One Iranian friend of mine explains, “Iran Started to produce local Fuel for transportation, the product was not good quality. In turn heavy air pollution occurred; there has been no wind or weather change to dissimilate toxic particles. The independent production of fuel began three years ago, right after the oil sanctions of all petroleum products and oil additives. The Government was restricted from buying fuel while not ready to produce high quality fuel needed. In order to keep the cost of transportation at a low instead of opting to raise prices, the Government voted to use the inferior quality of fuel which in turn caused massive pollution.” Trying to combat these inhumane sanctions has caused more damage on the people of Iran and not the government as the U.S. anticipated. It is the people that suffer through the brunt and damage of sanctions. It is U.S. that has violated a nation’s general understanding of what it means to provide for uncontaminated air by limiting resources of clean fuel for Iran. “The right to clean air is an important aspect of right to a healthy environment. Every person has the right to breathe clean air and governments are obliged to establish strategies to guarantee it. This right has been both explicitly and implicitly recognized by the constitutions of nations in recent years” If U.S. can desire the right to clean air for it’s citizens then why can’t they manage to allow Iranians to acquire clean air as well? Did U.S. not consider, in this century after learning the hard way from the Industrial Revolution the conditions that would be placed on millions by limiting clean air? Did they not consider the defects as well as increased diseases brought on by pollution like tuberculosis? Tuberculosis could be a major problem Iranians will now face because of sanctions against transferring clean fuel to Iran.  “During the Industrial Revolution this disease was very common because many people lived in the cramped industrial cities.” As of now many complaints of the Iranian people are, “People are suffering from burning eyes, tearing up, burning lungs from walking outdoors, heart disease and complications breathing. Pregnant women if able just leave the city altogether.”

Pollution2Figure 2. Dense smog fills Iran from fuel production. Iran began to independently produce its own fuel after U.S. imposed sanctions on Iran three years ago.

The following link in Farsi explains how a man witnessed his pregnant colleague fainting from the recent wave of toxins in Iranian atmosphere. At one point he explained the smog was so dense people could not see beyond their front door: http://www.faryadgar.com/vdciqyaz.t1awu2bcct.html

Iranians are experiencing an unpleasant attack of “The Fog” which they perceive almost as a chemical warfare. Moreover and more unpleasant are long term threats and effects of acid rain. The chemical pollutants do ferment into the ground and the water. As my informant explained “In Winter the air gets cold the pollution remains trapped in the subordinate atmosphere this causes the cities to be inundated in toxins. In the case of rain, all over the city of Tehran the rain is acidic.” The particles also become so thick Iranians have said they can see the black build up on their windows as well. “Gosh it is like a war on the Iranian people” my friend replied, like a chemical weapon.

So what are stipulations the Iranian government has made to decrease pollution in this emergency situation? As an obligation of Iranian law the government must issue warnings or evacuations of those in harms way. The following is the time line of events and evacuation due to recent smog this week.

Tuesday: People in densely populated and polluted areas were given a warning.

Wednesday: Recent traffic rules have emerged, odd numbered cars can operate on odd days and even numbered cars are told to operate on even days to decrease pollution.

Thursday: Government issued another warning to stay indoors and take leave from work, this is going on day four now.

Sunday: another warning issued to follow the odd and even driving routine.

Monday: Iranians are hoping for a change in weather but nothing new from the government of Iran as yet.

As far as a resolution to decrease the production of fuel, there is none as of yet. A decrease in fuel production while under immense sanctions would mean raising the fuel price. Raising the fuel price in turn affects the entire economy as far as higher inflation.  Emergency work leave has been the best decision made by the government my informant from Iran explained. Another solution would be for Iran to produce cleaner fuel which it does not have the technology for to date. Iran still needs fuel, it must produce. So, it is virtually being suffocated by sanctions. Before sanctions the elevated levels of pollution were not a problem. Iran imported clean fuel from British Petroleum, Kuwait, India and even Russia but now it is self reliant on fuels, now it has no one.

Overall the ultimate choice for better air quality in Iran (in the case of this crisis) would be for U.S. to lift this lethal burka off Mother Nature that is literally smothering the life out of Iran.  With recent implication of sanctions on Iran quickly after Obama won his second term, I do not see a way out of this smog soon. As for my informant’s thoughts when I asked about her feelings towards sanctions on Iran she left the following message, “This is not public diplomacy, this is ruining the face of America, calling themselves politicians.”  As for my thoughts, ‘Killing Them Softly’ can best describe the actions of U.S. government officials and their sanctions against Iran.

Annie Mosqueda

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