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Economic Sanctions against Iran – Pargar (BBC Persian TV)

“Pargar” – Weekly roundtable in which our guests try to answer some of the challenging and controversial questions in modern society.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Moderator: Daryoush Karimi


Panel 1

  • Dr. Hassan Hakimian (Director, London Middle East Institute, School of Oriental and African Studies [SOAS], University of London & Reader, Economics Department, SOAS)
  • Dr. Djamshid Assadi (Burgundy School of Business, France)

Panel 2

  • Ali Fathollah-Nejad (PhD candidate in International Relations, SOAS)
  • Fariba Shirazi (journalist, London)



Economic Sanctions against Iran – Pargar (BBC Persian TV) – October 2012 from Ali Fathollah-Nejad on Vimeo.

Download the audio file (26 MB; 56 mins).



  • The program has been edited towards the end. What I said at the end were basically two points: (1) I reacted to the debate at the end of the show about the Iran-West stand-off by merely pointing out that the West’s approach towards Iran is called “coercive diplomacy” in Diplomatic Studies not without a reason; (2) I asked whether “smart bombs” would follow in the wake of “smart sanctions.”
  • As to the number of children dying from the effects of the sanctions regime on Iraq (which lasted from 1991 to 2003), here is a collection of sources taken from the Wikipedia article “Sanctions against Iraq: Effects on the Iraqi people during sanctions” (accessed on 17 November 2012), which can provide the basis for both my own indication of 500,000 and the one by Dr. Hakimian’s of 250,000:

‘Researcher Richard Garfield estimated that “a minimum of 100,000 and a more likely estimate of 227,000 excess deaths among young children from August 1991 through March 1998” from all causes including sanctions.[27] Other estimates have put the number at 170,000 children.[14][28][29] UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said that

if the substantial reduction in child mortality throughout Iraq during the 1980s had continued through the 1990s, there would have been half a million fewer deaths of children under-five in the country as a whole during the eight year period 1991 to 1998. As a partial explanation, she pointed to a March statement of the Security Council Panel on Humanitarian Issues which states: “Even if not all suffering in Iraq can be imputed to external factors, especially sanctions, the Iraqi people would not be undergoing such deprivations in the absence of the prolonged measures imposed by the Security Council and the effects of war.” [30]

Estimates of deaths due to sanctions

Estimates of excess deaths during sanctions vary depending on the source. The estimates vary [30][37] due to differences in methodologies, and specific time-frames covered.[38] A short listing of estimates follows:

– Unicef: 500,000 children (including sanctions, collateral effects of war). “[As of 1999] [c]hildren under 5 years of age are dying at more than twice the rate they were ten years ago.”[30][39]
– Former U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq Denis Halliday: “Two hundred thirty-nine thousand children 5 years old and under” as of 1998.[40]
– “probably … 170,000 children”, Project on Defense Alternatives, “The Wages of War”, 20. October 2003[41]
– 350,000 excess deaths among children “even using conservative estimates”, Slate Explainer, “Are 1 Million Children Dying in Iraq?”, 9. October 2001.[42]
– Economist Michael Spagat: “very likely to be [less than] than half a million children” because estimation efforts are unable to isolate the effects of sanctions alone due to the lack of “anything resembling a controlled experiment”[43], and “one potential explanation” for the statistics showing a decline in child mortality was that “they were not real, but rather results of manipulations by the Iraqi government.”[43]
– “Richard Garfield, a Columbia University nursing professor … cited the figures 345,000-530,000 for the entire 1990-2002 period”[8] for sanctions-related excess deaths.[44]
– Zaidi, S. and Fawzi, M. C. S., (1995) The Lancet British medical journal: 567,000 children.[45] A co-author (Zaidi) did a follow-up study in 1996, finding “much lower … mortality rates … for unknown reasons.”[46]
– Iraq expert Amatzia Baram compared the country’s population growth rates over several censuses and found there to be almost no difference in the rate of Iraq’s population growth between 1977 and 1987 (35.8 percent), and between 1987 and 1997 (35.1 percent), suggesting a much lower total.[47]