[News] Biden Iran envoy boasted of depriving civilians of food, driving up Iranian inequality in sadistic sanctions manual

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Mar 8 21:36:41 EST 2021

Iran envoy boasted of depriving civilians of food, driving up Iranian
inequality in sadistic sanctions manual
Max Blumenthal · March 8, 2021

Richard Nephew has taken personal credit for depriving Iranians of food and
driving up their unemployment rates, celebrating the economic destruction
he caused as “a tremendous success.” Under Biden, he will help direct
policy on Iran.

The Joseph Biden administration has named Richard Nephew
as its deputy Iran envoy. As the former principal deputy coordinator of
sanctions policy for Barack Obama’s State Department, Nephew took personal
credit for depriving Iranians of food, sabotaging their automobile
industry, and driving up unemployment rates.

Nephew has described the destruction of Iran’s economy as “a tremendous
success,” and lamented during a visit to Russia that food was still
plentiful in the country’s capital despite mounting US sanctions.

Nephew’s appointment to a senior diplomatic post suggests that rather than
immediately returning to the JCPOA nuclear deal, the Biden administration
will finesse sanctions illegally imposed by Trump to pressure Iran into an
onerous, reworked agreement that Tehran is unlikely to join.

After coordinating Obama’s sanctions regime against Iran, Nephew left the
administration for a position at the energy industry-funded Center on
Global Energy Policy
<https://twitter.com/MaxBlumenthal/status/1305019596055994373?s=20> at
Columbia University. There, he published a book outlining in blunt terms
how he honed the craft of economic warfare and applied it against Iran.

Entitled “The Art of Sanctions: A View From The Field,” the book’s cover
image features two Caucasian hands drawing a rope for a noose, presumably
to strangle some insufficiently pliant Global South government. Its
contents read like a list of criminal confessions, detailing in chillingly
clinical terms how the sanctions Nephew conceived from inside an
air-conditioned office in Washington immiserated average Iranians.

With his candor, Nephew has shattered the official US rhetoric about
“targeted sanctions” that exclusively punish “bad actors” and their
business cronies while leaving civilian populations unharmed.

The application of pain to a country’s civilian population is central to
Nephew’s sanctions strategy. As he explains in “The Art of Sanctions,” for
the unilateral coercive measures to succeed, they must impose significant
pain to a state’s most vulnerable sectors, shatter the state’s political
and social resolve, and ultimately force the state to cry uncle in the face
of Washington’s demands.
[image: Richard Nephew The Art of Sanctions]An excerpt from Richard
Nephew’s book The Art of Sanctions

Nephew detailed how, as JCPOA negotiations got underway in January 2012, he
led a process to reduce Iran’s oil revenue and starve its economy.

After the Obama administration successfully pushed for a wholesale
reduction in oil exports and other unilateral coercive measures, Iran’s
economy went from a period of growth to a sudden and staggering
contraction, while the value of its currency tumbled.

Nephew pronounced the economic assault he engineered to be “a tremendous
[image: Richard Nephew The Art of Sanctions]An excerpt from Richard
Nephew’s book The Art of Sanctions

Nephew also patted himself on the the back for tripling the price of
chicken “during important Iranian holiday periods,” thereby “contribut[ing]
to more popular frustration in one bank shot than years of financial

Next, he boasted of more sanctions targeting civilians to prevent Iranians
from obtaining the assistance they needed to repair their cars. “Iran’s
manufacturing jobs and export revenue were the targets of this sanction,”
Nephew wrote.

There were some goods that Nephew wanted Iran to import, however. In hopes
of fomenting social unrest, he said Washington “expanded the ability of US
and foreign companies to sell Iranians technology used for personal
communications” so they could “learn more about the dire straits of their
country’s economy…”

During a December 6, 2017 panel discussion
<https://youtu.be/ShfJdn5UoDo?t=1510> about his book at Columbia
University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, Nephew detailed with a
chilling smile how he not only sabotaged Iran’s automotive industry, but
targeted “things like unemployment, to try to drive that up and make things
a little more sticky.”

In response to online criticism, Nephew has claimed that “the main target”
of the sanctions regime he designed was “the oligarchs.” But his book on
“The Art of Sanctions” tells another story.

Nephew fondly recalls how he structured sanctions to sabotage Iranian
economic reforms that would have improved the purchasing power of average
people. The Obama administration destroyed the economic prospects of Iran’s
working-class majority while ensuring that “only the wealthy or those in
positions of power could take advantage of Iran’s continued connectedness,”
he wrote. As “stories began to emerge from Iran of intensified income
inequality and inflation,” Nephew pronounced another success.

As he made clear, the rising inequality “was a choice” that Washington
“made on the basis of helping to drive up the pressure on the Iranian
economy from internal sources.” Nephew went on to claim credit for October
2012 protests brought on by the devaluation of Iran’s currency.

In a fairly stunning admission, Nephew admits at one point that despite
providing Iran with supposed humanitarian exceptions on US sanctions, the
economic war he helped design caused a catastrophic shortage of medicine
and medical devices, largely because average Iranians could not afford them.

Despite acknowledging the heavy toll of human suffering brought on by the
sanctions he personally conceived, suggesting they could have prompted high
numbers of excess deaths, Nephew appears to be devoid of contrition.

During a December 2016 trip to Moscow, he complained that despite the
sanctions imposed on Russia by the US, food was still widely available at
local restaurants – “hardly a level of pain” that was necessary to bring
the Kremlin to heel.

He called
<https://twitter.com/MaxBlumenthal/status/1305019593476509702/photo/2> to
“develop a strategy to carefully, methodically, and efficiently increase
pain on those areas [of the Russian economy] that are vulnerabilities and
avoid those that are not.”

So who is Richard Nephew? Does he lurk in the shadow world of intelligence
intrigues and spook wars, keeping a low profile while he waits to strike
the enemy? Or is he a fire-breathing hardliner bellowing threats against
America’s adversaries from Beltway think tank panels? The reality is much
more banal.

When he is not snatching chicken from Iranian kids during their winter
holiday, Nephew is spending quality time with his own, amusing them with
his tattered dad rock t-shirts and flashing arms adorned with tribal

In an administration filled with fun-loving, ethnically diverse characters
who moonlight as rock guitarists
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqb7AQ3u2x8>, decorate the walls
<https://twitter.com/JakobJohnston/status/1368552597003599873?s=20> of
their homes with Haitian art, bob their heads to Tupac
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JQC3uHSVTA>, and even enjoy an occasional
toke <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKMwua-_jlQ>, all while keeping the
gears of a ferociously violent empire grinding along, the tattooed
sanctions artist seems like a perfect fit.

Meanwhile, in Iran, where a leading daily recently portrayed Nephew as
Keanu Reeves in the horror film The Devil’s Advocate, his elevation to a
senior diplomatic role is viewed as a sign of more pain to come.
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