Medical diplomacy is more than vaccines

Therapeutics now and vaccines later need to be made available even to countries under US financial sanctions, but which are critical for India, such as Iran.

Among the reasons why the US dollar is at greater risk of going the way mapped out by strategists in Beijing and Moscow is the frequent use of sanctions by Washington to ensure changes in specific policies of target countries, preferably through regime change. The latter is assumed to be the most likely result of sanctions that cripple an entire economy, such as those imposed on Iraq after its occupation of Kuwait in 1990, and more recently those imposed by successive US Presidents on North Korea and Iran. Some of these have received the imprimatur of the UN Security Council, while others—such as the withdrawal of the US from the Iran nuclear deal—have been unilateral. In Iraq, the sanctions caused human suffering on a scale seldom witnessed even during wartime and failed to remove Saddam Hussein from power. This happened only after the G.W. Bush invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003. In North Korea, neither has the steady march towards nuclear and missile capability of that state been reversed by the sanctions nor a change of regime. Those unique communists, the Kim dynasty remains in power. In Iran, the withdrawal by the US from the 2015 nuclear deal accompanied by several more turns of the sanctions screw by President has had the effect of reducing the popularity of the relatively more moderate President to the benefit of those who had opposed the nuclear deal and now see themselves as vindicated. Financial sanctions that make use of the dollar being the global reserve currency and the US being at the hub of global banking are leading several leaders across the world to diversify away from the US dollar and financial architecture. Among the beneficiaries of this trend has been the RMB, the currency adopted by the Peoples Republic of China. An additional incentive offered by the PRC is the fact that moneys secreted away in Macao and in other PRC-controlled banking havens are safe from the prying eyes of US agencies in a way that money deposited in other banking havens such as those run from London, Zurich or Dubai have long ceased to be. Outside China and perhaps Russia, in the banking segment, no significant player is immune from the prying eyes of the Department of the Treasury in Washington. The only ones who are, are those under the care of the Chinese Communist Party in the territories under its supervision. Long before there was talk of decoupling from China, that country quietly ensured that a sensitive segment of its financial infrastructure was decoupled from the US and its tributaries.

Smart sanctions are those carried out through a sniper rifle, on influential individuals rather than on the population of an entire country. The use of such scattershot sanctions results in misery getting inflicted on millions of ordinary citizens, without at the same time furthering the agenda of those imposing them. President Trump imposed sanctions on Teheran to remove the time limitations prescribed by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in the nuclear deal reached by the Obama administration. Instead, the effect of the scrapping of the JCPOA will be to make the development of nuclear weapons by Iran a certainty. Prime Minister Netanyahu is aware that Israel by itself cannot take the risk of an all-out war with Iran, and hence would like the US to initiate such a conflict. The problem facing him is that the present capabilities of Iran would make such a war extremely risky for the countries waging it. Iran may go through hell as a consequence of war, but it has the capacity to drag several other countries into the same cauldron. Which is why even held back from launching such an attack a few months ago, after checking with his military and intelligence staff about its likely consequences. In the case of North Korea, the stage when a pre-emptive war could be launched against the DPRK has almost certainly passed. Kim Jong Un has built up WMD capabilities that have the potential to inflict damage on a scale impossible to accept in South Korea, Japan and on US bases in the region. John Bolton believes that it was not the handing over of WMD stockpiles by Muammar Gaddafi that led to the Franco-UK takeout of him in 2011, but the Arab Spring. He was wrong. Gaddafi would have ridden out the storm caused by uprisings but for NATO intervention. Both Ayatollah Khamenei and Kim Jong Un remember the Libya precedent quoted by the then NSA as his preferred template for resolving the nuclear issue. It was the surrender of WMD by the dictator of Libya in 2003 that gave the wide safety margin over Gaddafi that was sought by NATO in its intervention. The execution of the Libyan dictator removed any chance there previously was of persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapon capabilities. Besides flooding Europe with refugees, creating a safe haven for terrorists, finishing of the Libyan oil industry and reducing the country to warring splinters. Nicolas Sarkozy, David Cameron and Hillary Clinton have a lot to answer for that they are silent about.

Ordinary people need medicines, not inhumane sanctions. India has already shown its prowess in therapeutics, with more than 90% of medication keeping HIV patients alive in poor countries coming from this country. Soon, low-cost vaccines are likely to be rolled out from Hyderabad and Pune. Therapeutics now and vaccines later need to be made available even to countries under US financial sanctions, but which are critical for India, such as Iran. If such essential items are given free, the question of financial sanctions does not arise. Medicines need to be made available, and if the volumes are large, perhaps this could be through barter trade. Once President of the US, Biden is likely to appreciate why the US needs good relations between India and Iran. This is in its own national interest, and so also that of Israel in a situation where conclusive kinetic action by the US against that country’s nuclear capabilities no longer seems viable. Such evaporation of viability seems to have been crossed in the case of North Korea as well, which is why the best that can be secured may be a hopefully permanent remission of the danger from them of enhanced nuclear and missile capabilities, rather than a “cure” (i.e. elimination of such assets). Given the experience of Iran with the Trump White House, it is unlikely that the clerical regime in Teheran continues to believe that nuclear weapons capability is not necessary for its continuance, if ever such a belief existed in the first place.

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