Did Ahmadinejad consider sanctions dangerous?


ByReza Haghighatnejad

Iran’s former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in an interview published in Bahar Government website on November 7, has claimed that when “U.S. and EU” put some sanctions on Iran outside UN [framework], “we announced that these sanctions are dangerous.”
Ahmadinejad believes “the new sanctions could not be simply implemented,” accordingly, “they said the government must be weakened to make the sanctions effective.” In this interview, he has accused the Parliament, judiciary branch, IRIB [Iran state-run TV], Audit Court and politicians of cooperating with the westerners in this issue. Moreover, he called 3,000-billion Tomans embezzlement case, confrontation with deputy governor of Central Bank, 2011 foreign exchange shock, questioning the president, corruption case of Mohammad Reza Rahimi and seizing British Embassy as “domestic preparations” in this regard.
In another part of his interview, Ahmadinejad has explained about the way he dealt with sanctions of U.S. and Europe: “We prepared 5 or 6 plans to neutralize sanctions and lessen sanctions’ adverse impacts. When we wanted to put them into effect, they said, ‘we won’t allow you’. This very speaker of Parliament said, ‘we won’t let you’. We said you could be in charge of government’s powers. You make a decision and we will support it and will do whatever you say. They said no. We said let us do something. They said no again.”
Ahmadinejad has also talked of his consultations with the leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, in this regard: “We first went to the leader. Several people went to him to explain these sanctions are different and must be taken seriously. He said, ‘Go to Assembly of Experts, Guardian Council, the Parliament and religious authorities, and explain it to them.’” Nevertheless, Ahmadinejad’s explanations had been to no avail: “We told all of them these sanctions are different from those of UN, and putting sanction on Central Bank and oil is not just a joke. They made fun of it. They said, ‘No, they want to make the leader drink the cup of poison [making him reconcile with the west]’ and then said, ‘it is due to their own incompetence.’”
Therefore, it seems that by “announcing”, Ahmadinejad means that, in negotiations and confidential reports to regime’s leaders and decision-makers, he had reported the danger of sanctions, but no one had taken his words seriously. Based on this interview, one can say that the main culprit in not accepting Ahmadinejad’s arguments had been Khamenei himself who had adequate power and authority to convince other institutes but had not taken the government’s explanations seriously, allowing Ahmadinejad’s opponents to advance their anti-government projects and seriously weaken his government against sanctions. In another part of the interview, Ahmadinejad has said, “in 2011-2012, if the leader had not supported the government, they would have torn to the government pieces inside [the country].” By the way, Ahmadinejad describes efforts and activities against the government by institutions overseen by the leader, the leader’s appointees had been actually tearing the government into pieces.
Even claims about inattention to sanctions cannot be true. In actuality, it was the pressure of sanctions on Iran’s economy that prepared the ground for secret talks between Iran and U.S. in Oman in 2012. Probably what he means is that Khamenei and other institutions took sanctions seriously very late. However, how about himself? One can review some of his positions to have a better understanding in this regard. For example, in July 2010, he had said in Mosques Summit that Iran intends to use sanctions as an opportunity for globalizing Iranian productions, and ‘we have decided to use these sanctions for establishing a new order in Iran’s economy, thus striking and intercepting the enemy.” It is not clear what he meant by the new world order, but before this talk, he had said putting sanctions on Iran is tantamount to end of the dominance of the dollar in the world.
In such an atmosphere, he urged in an interview with NBC on 16 September 2010: “Even if U.S. government increases sanctions against Ian and make them 100 times more, and even if Europe joins U.S. in imposing heavier sanctions, we are in such a position in Iran that we can meet our own requirements.” Also, on 27 September 2010, Ahmadinejad said in a conference to celebrate female martyrs that “the westerners know sanctions have no impacts, yet some are shouting inside the country that sanctions are dangerous to create agitation in the society. They insist on saying sanctions are effective.” In fact, he was not only confused at that time but accused others with a proper understanding of the situation of creating psychological insecurity.
It was from this perspective that Ahmadinejad, in a press conference in Istanbul on 24 December 2010, said in response to a journalist’s question about sanctions’ impact that “Sanctions? What sanctions?” Influenced by the same propaganda, he claimed in January 2011 that “sanctions have had no impacts on Iran.” And he said in June 2012, “we must see sanctions as an opportunity to eliminate whatever dependence on oil is left in the country’s budget, and take the weapon of using oil as sanctions [against Iran] from the enemy’s hands forever.” Likewise, in an interview with Farid Zakaria in CNN, he said, “sanctions that were claimed to be paralyzing have just disrupted 10% of Iran’s domestic economy which is related to foreign trades. And 5 years after sanctions against Iran, EU’s economy is collapsing, but Iran’s economy is growing and dynamic.”
Ahmadinejad’s supporters might claim such remarks were made in the framework of psychological warfare, and Ahmadinejad must have said such things in public and particularly in the western media so as not to convey Iran’s defeat. Even though all these remarks were not at foreign meetings, one point is clear. In those 4 years that U.S. and Europe were preparing for and imposing unilateral sanctions against Iran, the then president of Iran was lying about impact of sanctions.
At this time, it wasn’t just lying, but there were also miscalculations. One obvious example of miscalculations was made by Mahmoud Bahmani and Kamal Seyyed Ali, who were then head and deputy head of foreign exchange office in Central Bank. They constantly said Central Bank would not be put under sanctions, but in actuality it was. The other example was calculating oil price. In January 2012, Iran’s Oil Minister Rostam Ghassemi said in an interview with Asseman magazine that “putting sanctions on Iran will increase oil price to at least $200 [per barrel].” Such remarks did not come true, and in 3 years after putting sanctions on Iran’s oil, the price of oil reached to $50 and even less. It is not clear whether anti-sanction plans that Ahmadinejad talks about were based on calculations of such officials or he received these plans from a certain source. Perhaps, if he announces his 5 or 6 anti-sanction plans, one can better understand the depth of his and his government’s delusions and lies.
Translated Piece: Iran Wire

Opinions in this article reflect the writer’s point of view, not necessarily the view of The Arabain GCIS

Reza Haghighatnejad
Reza Haghighatnejad
Political analyst