The US has announced it is easing sanctions on Iran, allowing exports of computers, cellphones and software to individuals. The move comes ahead of presidential election to be held next month.
Though the chances of an Apple Store being opened in Tehran are still slim, Iranians might soon be able to buy American computer devices and cellphones officially and not at the black market, as they have been forced to do by US restrictions, in force since 1992. As for Iranians living in US, they can finally feel free to buy whatever gadgets they like – something they used to be denied, with shops citing American sanctions.
The US Department of the Treasury says it is lifting the ban to enhance freedom of speech.
“The people of Iran should be able to communicate and access information without being subject to reprisals by their government,” the department’s statement reads. It specifies the sanctions will no longer apply only for non-government, individual consumers.
The move is meant to give Iranians greater access to social media and instant messaging tools, allowing them to avoid at least some of the government controls on the internet. The decision is made two weeks before the coming presidential election, recalling the impact of the Arab Spring.
Back in 2011 regime protests were gathered as a result of activists being able to communicate and coordinate their actions through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Iran witnessed something similar in 2009, when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection led to massive protests by the opposition Green Movement, which also used social media extensively to summon crowds to anti-government demonstrations.
US-based human rights group, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), hailed Washington’s decision, explaining the sanctions harmed common Iranians more than the government.
“At a time when broad sanctions are causing many Iranians to seriously question whether the US is aiming at them or their government, this is a very important gesture,” said Jamal Abdi, NIAC Policy Director.
Iranian political analyst Seyed Mohammad Marandi is not that optimistic, labeling the gesture as empty. He believes lifting some other sanctions would have been the real sign of America’s goodwill. Meanwhile, the US is trying to “prevent the import and export of all goods, including foodstuffs and medicine.”
“Many patients have died as a result of medical shortages. They are trying to wreck the Iranian economy and inflict as much suffering as possible upon the Iranian people.”
The analyst is questioning the US’s sincerity in its efforts to enhance freedoms for common Iranians, as he points at how selective Washington’s attempts at bringing democratic reforms to Arab countries have been so far.
“In truth, Western regimes are against the Awakening or Spring that we see in Arab countries, because they do not want the will of the people to be reflected in the policies of the governments of the region. That is why they supported the Tunisian and Egyptian dictatorships until they were on the verge of being overthrown and that is why they support the Saudi occupation of Bahrain. That is also why the US, Britain, and France, have allowed the oil rich dictatorships of the Persian Gulf to heavily fund Takfiri Salafis across the region,” Marandi said.