Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), one of Washington’s most reliably hawkish politicos on Iran, made clear yesterday that he wants to go over the heads of the Iranian regime and appeal to the Iranian people’s hearts and minds — and he’s willing to forsake their stomachs to do it.
Appearing on a local Chicago radio show, Kirk said the allegedly Iranian-backed assassination plot exposed by the Obama administration yesterday was the perfect excuse to impose broad-based economic sanctions. So broad-based are Kirk’s sanctions that they’re specifically designed to collapse Iran’s currency, the Rial, by targeting the Islamic Republic’s central bank. Kirk was one of a few Republicans to say in the past two days that the allegedly Iranian-backed assassination plot constituted an act of war.
One of the show’s hosts, Ron Majors, asked Kirk whether, as is often the case with sanctions, going after the Iranian economy with such a broad brush stands to hurt ordinary Iranians. Kirk, who acknowledges later in the interview that the current government was “only able to hold onto power by stealing [the] last election,” then made the stunning admission that he didn’t see anything wrong with literally denying food to ordinary Iranians.
Here’s the exchange:
MAJORS: Once we get into sanctions and taking those kinds of actions, the argument immediately becomes, ‘Are you really going after the government of the country, or are you taking food out of the mouths of the citizens?‘
KIRK: It’s okay to take the food out of the mouths of the citizens from a government that’s plotting an attack directly on American soil.
There is no delicate line to tip-toe here: One cannot both see the Iranian regime as an oppressor of the Iranian people and simultaneously decree that it is fine to punish the Iranian people for the actions of a government that has no accountability to them. There is a simple phrase to describe this, and it’s collective punishment.
Perhaps Kirk wants something similar to the sanctions on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, which did not satiate Washington’s war hawks, and caused serious suffering in Iraq. During the initial years of broad-based sanctions after the first Guld War, infant mortality in Iraq rose more than threefold, from one death out of 30 births in 1990, to one in eight in 1997.