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10 Facts About the Recession in Iran

Iran, a southwest Asian nation of over 81 million people, currently struggles with a dire recession. Iranians face a combination of inflationary pressures and economic stagnation, known as stagflation. Listed below are 10 facts about the recession in Iran:

10 Facts About the Recession in Iran

  1. Sanctions – The recent resumption of U.S. sanctions has taken a large toll on Iran’s economy. Sanctions contributed to a gross domestic product contraction of 3.93 percent in 2018 after a GDP growth of 3.73 percent the previous year. The sanctions particularly target oil exports, Iran’s primary revenue stream. A BBC report states that Iran’s oil trade has lost $10 billion in the past six months because of sanctions.
  2. Oil Dependency – Iran contains the fourth most crude oil reserves in the world, which has led to a volatile economy based on petroleum. Oil was a boon to Iran’s economy in 2016, a year in which the country witnessed a 12.52 percent GDP growth. However, as the World Bank notes, this success rapidly diminished to approximately 3.8 percent growth in 2017 as petrodollars became rarer.
  3. Ambiguous Poverty Line – Poverty is difficult to fight because Iran’s government cannot decide on a poverty line. The Iran Observer stated in 2017 that various government representatives define absolute poverty differently. Iranian Vice President of Economic Affairs Mohammad Nahavandian estimated 10 million Iranians live in poverty while, Parviz Fattah, head of the Khomeini Relief Foundation, claims the number is closer to 20 million.
  4. High Unemployment Iran currently suffers from an unemployment epidemic, particularly among the educated youth. A mere 14,000 new jobs appeared yearly for the 700,000 youth entering the market between 2006 and 2011. Now, the Brookings Institution reports that college-educated men aged 25 to 29 years have a 34.6 percent unemployment rate, and women of the same group have a 45.7 percent rate.
  5. Emigration – One result of Iran’s employment dilemma is the mass emigration of skilled labor from the country. There is a surplus of skilled labor without the necessary demand, so educated Iranians flee the country for new opportunities. CNN Business reports that Iran’s Science Minister, Reza Faraji Dana, admitted 150,000 skilled Iranians had fled the nation in 2014 for this reason.
  6. High Cost of Living – The cost of living in Iran between 2018 and 2019 has skyrocketed alongside rapid inflation. According to the BBC, the Iranian rial has lost 60 percent of its value in the past year. Housing costs and medical attention have risen by 20 percent and especially harm the poorest individuals.  In March 2019, a Statistical Centre of Iran report also showed a 57 percent increase in white meat prices and a 37 percent uptick in dairy costs for average citizens.
  7. Increasing Poverty – As employment and affordable goods become scarcer, more Iranians fall into poverty. The Brookings Institution estimates that poverty remained at roughly 10 percent nationally in 2011, but it has risen since then. Research by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies found that it rose as high as 38 percent in the Sistan and Balouchistan provinces between 2016 and 2017. The threat of insulated urban areas succumbing to poverty displays the problem’s magnitude. Qom, the renowned traditional center of Islamic clerical training, suffered from a 30 percent poverty rate in 2017.
  8. Relief International Helps – Relief International is one nongovernmental organization mitigating the recession’s effects and preventing the economic crisis from deepening. Originally founded by Iranian-Americans in 1990 as “The Iran Earthquake Relief Fund,” RI focuses on cash assistance for flood victims and training local NGOs. The floods in the Golestan province have exacerbated hard times, and RI’s instant cash assistance will help 2,000 families from slipping into poverty. RI also hopes to have an indirect effect on poverty reduction by training 20 Iranian NGOs in efficient service to the poor.
  9. Amenities Expanded – Despite the recession, most Iranians have access to basic amenities due to government efforts post-1984. The Brookings Institution charts that in 1984, below 80 percent of citizens had electricity or plumbing. The government realized the issue stemmed from underdeveloped rural areas and immediately provided funding. It was an incredibly successful campaign that brought Iranians universal electricity and plumbing by 2000. These efforts continue today, spawning progress in the midst of recession and delivering baths to nearly 100 percent of Iranians by 2017.
  10. Improving Efficiency – Iran’s government is acting to make the economy more efficient, and there are many recommendations available for enhancing fiscal stability. An International Monetary Fund consultation with Iran in 2015 congratulated the government on widening the revenue stream by implementing simple direct taxation. Recommendations included expanding employment for women and increasing privatization, both of which should unlock new productivity for the economy.

The above 10 facts about the recession in Iran show that many hurdles still block the country’s growth. However, the steady increase in access to amenities displays economic progress within the recession and the IMF’s recommendations provide viable solutions to stagflation. Continued improvements will service the poor and provide a path to Iran’s economic stability.

Sean Galli
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Iran

As Iran is currently at the epicenter of geopolitics and regional conflicts in the turbulent Middle East, the country’s role in international affairs is steadily growing in importance. Moreover, the Iran nuclear deal is also revitalizing Iran’s presence and significance on the global stage at the same time.

The Current Situation in Iran

According to the World Bank Group, Iran’s GDP in 2017 was $439.5 billion while its population peaked at 80.6 million. On the poverty alleviation front, poverty in Iran fell from 13.1 percent to 8.1 percent between the years 2009 to 2013. Also, in the changing dynamic of its domestic politics and a new wave of secularism and liberalism brought on by a burgeoning young population in the country, addressing poverty in Iran is a very key objective for various stakeholder groups.

However, according to a report by the Independent from Dec. 2017, the economic situation in Iran appears rather bleak in some regard because food prices are on the rise and unemployment figures are at an all-time high at over 12.4 percent. Expanding income inequalities in the country are also becoming quite widespread due to major deficiencies in the taxation and welfare systems offered to the people.

How Iran’s Political Climate Could Affect Poverty

Historically, since the culmination of the Pahlavi dynasty and revolution in Iran in 1979, the country’s social and economic progress has been a vital priority. In recent years, owing to the perceived threat of its nuclear arsenal, Iran’s diplomatic relations with its western counterparts have impacted its trade and commerce majorly due to the imposition of crippling international sanctions.

Furthermore, the changing attitudes of the Trump administration are a major threat to the deal as it may be detrimental to the future economic and diplomatic recovery Iran is trying to seek. Unfortunately, the collapse of the deal could be a major hindrance to countering poverty in Iran.

The Iran nuclear deal can help greatly bolster the capacity to alleviate poverty in Iran due to the level of investment Iran could easily achieve in the future with the expansion of its oil market, given its vast and abundant reserves. Iran can boost its oil output, GDP and household incomes in the future with diminished sanctions.

Consequently, the introduction of the Iran nuclear deal was followed by noticeable economic recovery in the country with Iran’s economy growing at an annual rate of about 12.5 percent after a sizeable contraction of about 1.6 percent in the year 2015. The country hopes to maintain growth amounting to four percent annually.

Alleviating Poverty in Iran through Investment

Moreover, remediating poverty in Iran can also be achieved by increasing the level of investment and tapping into Iran’s potential. Iran is beginning to expand and diversify its industries, especially its hydrocarbon, agriculture and services sectors, and is also continuing to focus on boosting its financial and manufacturing capabilities as well. Additionally, this may help decrease Iran’s over-reliance on its oil market as prices have often tended to remain quite volatile, especially in recent years.

The government is also implementing its twentieth-year vision and sixth five-year development plan in order to focus more on market-based reforms and techniques. This strategy is targeting three important realms: economy, science and technology. The subsidy reforms orchestrated by the government will directly help reduce poverty in Iran as they aim to target price adjustment and further increase cash transfers to low-income households in the country.

Alleviating poverty in Iran shall largely depend on existing and future initiatives that involve opening up the economy further, engaging in economic and trade liberalization with its key trading partners and embarking on further domestic structural reforms.

– Shivani Ekkanath
Photo: Flickr

 IranThe United States House of Representatives recently passed legislation condemning the use of civilians as human shields, a violation of internationally recognized human rights currently being practiced by Hizballah. The Sanctioning Hizballah’s Illicit Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act is currently being reviewed by the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Hizballah is a terrorist organization originally formed by Iranian extremists in Lebanon. They are responsible for terrorist attacks all over the world, including bombings of the United States embassy in Lebanon, suicide bombings in Bulgaria and barrack attacks in Beirut. The organization has been operating in Lebanon for decades, sustaining political power by holding nearly half of the seats in Lebanon’s cabinet and National Assembly. Hizballah has maintained a reputation for being the most successful anti-Israel group in the Middle East, gaining support from Arab nationalists as well as Iran and Syria.

Hizballah is currently putting Lebanese lives at risk by placing military strongholds within Lebanese villages. They seize civilian homes, hospitals and schools and use them to store weapons and house troops. Over 200 villages are currently being used by Hizballah for military purposes, mainly in southern Lebanon. The terrorist organization is essentially using civilians as human shields to try and protect their military with no regard for their safety. If conflict were to occur between Israel and Hizballah, which is likely and recurrent, civilians will be caught directly in the middle of the violence. These practices are in direct violation of Article 58 of the Geneva Conventions precautioning against the effects of attacks, which state that parties of conflict must avoid locating military objectives in densely populated areas and take precautions to protect civilian populations.

If the Sanctioning Hizballah’s Illicit Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act becomes law, Congress will condemn Hizballah’s use of human shields, and the United States president will sanction any person or entity guilty of using human shields, impose asset blocking and urge the United Nations Security Council to support a resolution imposing multilateral sanctions against Hizballah. This law will be an important step towards protecting civilians who are affected by Hizballah’s activity.

– Jenae Atwell

Photo: Flickr

US Is Extending Iran Sanctions ReliefOn September 28, 2017, White House officials announced that the U.S. is extending sanctions relief for Iran implemented by the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The nuclear deal was coordinated by the international community and ended crippling economic sanctions against Iran by the United States, European Union and United Nations, in exchange for Iran reducing its nuclear capabilities for 10 years and limiting uranium enrichment for 15 years. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran has been upholding its end of the deal.

The relief from key economic sanctions under the JCPOA plays an important role in Iran’s future economic sustainability. The sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program limited the nation’s ability to engage in trade and its access to oil revenue and international financial institutions. This contributed to a recession in 2012 and 2013 that saw Iran’s GDP growth decline by 6.6 percent in 2012. Inflation rose to over 30 percent, resulting in dramatic price hikes in food and basic necessities, and more than a fifth of the country was left unemployed.

Though the Iran deal is still in its infancy, it has already had significant impacts on Iran’s economy. World Bank estimates place Iran GDP growth at 6.4 percent and is projected to grow by over 4 percent from 2017-2019. Projections by the World Bank show significant boosts in oil production and other industries and potential growth in women’s employment.

The Iran deal also has the potential to fuel Iran’s development goals. Sanctions were lifted a month before Iran’s parliamentary elections and were touted as a significant victory of Iran’s moderate leadership. The elections resulted in large gains for development-minded moderates and economic reformers and significant losses for Iranian conservatives.

However, the sanctions relief for Iran remain controversial stateside. Though President Trump has chosen to continue maintaining the Iran deal, he has called the Iran deal “one of the worst deals” in history, and signaled that the U.S. is extending Iran sanctions relief temporarily and may withdraw or renegotiate the deal come October.

Furthermore, President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson believe that Iran is not complying with “the spirit” of the deal due to its ballistic missile tests, cyber activities and continued backing of terrorist groups, though no clause in the JCPOA forbids Iran from engaging in these actions. Nonetheless, the White House announced new sanctions outside of the Iran deal on several Iranian individuals and entities connected to malicious Iranian cyber activities.

Carson Hughes

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Russia
Russia continues to build deteriorating relations with the West. On top of that, the economic turmoil following sanctions imposed on Moscow after it meddled in Ukraine’s business has had a serious impact on hunger in Russia and the country’s likelihood of going hungry in general.

Food is just one of the everyday necessities being used by Russia’s government in the international struggle for peace in the Crimea region of Russia and Ukraine. Russia has banned imports of most food from countries party to the European Union’s (EU) economic sanctions against Russia.

The EU’s economic sanctions against Russia are meant to pressure the Russian government to end its violent campaign against Ukrainian nationalists. The sanctions mainly ban activity that profits banks and some blacklisted individuals.

More Russians have been slipping into poverty and hunger since the Western sanctions have been put into place. Along with that, low oil prices that have battered the country’s energy-dependent economy and significantly diminished purchasing power have taken a toll.

However, 2016 poverty indicators are still much lower than those from the start of President Vladimir Putin’s first term in 2000. During that time, 29 percent of the Russian population found itself below the poverty threshold.

Despite the decrease in poverty indicators, a food shortage has begun in Russia, according to The Moscow Times. Hunger in Russia is a very real possibility. This is due mainly to more than a year of extended sanctions against imported food.

Some food producers have increased productions notably over the last 17 months. This includes the meat and dairy producers as well as beef and potato producers. Unfortunately, it has not been enough to make up for the loss of food imports banned due to these government sanctions.

The silver lining in this whole situation is that Russia is known for its self-reliance when it comes to food struggles. Recently, a study done by Natural Homes revealed that 51 percent of Russia’s food is grown by communities in both rural areas and by peasant farmers.

A great example of Russian resilience is a small business owner, Alexander Krupetskov. Alexander started an artisan cheese shop just a month before the embargo was established last year. His business has flourished since that and he has also opened a second shop.

Although times are tough in Russia, these glimmers of hope and forward movement are great signs for the country’s future. It would seem that even in the toughest of circumstances, Russia’s people know how to pull themselves from the depths and create something beautiful and everlasting.

Keaton McCalla

Photo: Flickr

 

Sanctions in Sudan
The U.S. designated Sudan a “state sponsor of terrorism” in 1993 when it was revealed that President Omar al-Bashir’s government was protecting terrorists, including Osama Bin Laden. There have been sanctions in Sudan ever since.

However, it has recently been pointed out by various publications and organizations that the sanctions have not had their desired effect. Foreign Policy, for instance, has pointed out that rather than crippling Sudan’s privileged and corrupt elite, the sanctions have done little more than exacerbate the poverty that 39 percent of the African country’s population lives in. Some would argue that it is, therefore, time to lift sanctions in Sudan.

The ways that the sanctions harm ordinary Sudanese are numerous. For one thing, isolation of the country’s biomedical sector has severely impacted its already dismal state of health care provision. Doctors often have to use outdated technology or black market products because the necessary equipment is too expensive.

Furthermore, scientists and academics cannot perform important research because they are prevented from subscribing to certain journals, buying certain books and accessing databases used by laboratories around the world. It is difficult for them to collaborate with scientists from the U.S. and other more advanced countries, which would be a crucial aspect of development.

Things are similarly tough for aid and development institutions. Though food, medicine and humanitarian assistance are technically exempted from sanctions, obtaining waivers is difficult and sometimes impossible. Many organizations would like to deal with Sudan balk because of the need to navigate thorny bureaucratic territory to secure special licenses. In other developing countries, a lot of this work would be performed by intermediary banks but since complying with the sanctions is such a hassle, many are unwilling to do so.

The IMF has reported that the dissolution of relations between Sudanese banks and their foreign counterparts is in large part the result of U.S. policy. Last year, the French bank BNP Paribas, after being caught doing business with Sudan, Iran and Cuba, was forced to pay an $8.9 billion penalty. This punishment has highlighted the increased risks banks have faced since 9/11 in dealing with countries that have some history of financing or otherwise abetting terrorism.

Despite having in these ways taken a significant toll on ordinary Sudanese, the sanctions have failed to oust Bashir from power or put an end to violence in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions. To lift sanctions in Sudan would allow the country new opportunities to develop and address its economic and political crises.

Up until recently, such change seemed like a pipe dream, since U.S.-Sudan relations have kept at a destructive standstill. However, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators is looking to loosen things up.

According to TheHill.com, Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) are hoping to undo travel restrictions that halt travel between Sudan and the U.S. The legislation they plan to introduce “would allow individuals from countries in the Visa Waiver Program who have dual citizenship with Iran, Iraq, Syria and Sudan to travel to the United States without a visa.” A bipartisan group of representatives plans to introduce similar legislation in the House.

These moves are not as major as a decision to lift sanctions in Sudan but they do point to the possibility that momentum will be gained in that direction in the near future.

Joe D’Amore

Sources: Foreign Policy, IMF, The Hill 1, The Hill 2, Flickr

Poverty_in_Russia
Poverty in Russia has been a prevailing issue for years now, but a host of causes has finally brought it to its worst point yet.

According to a recent report by Rosstat, a Russian state statistics service, the amount of people living below the poverty line in Russia hit 22.9 million earlier this year. Russia’s population was roughly 144 million at the end of 2014.

Russia’s poverty crisis has worsened steadily over the past few years due primarily to embargos and resulting inflation. As a result of Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine crisis, many countries embargoed food imports to Moscow. This caused inflation in the country to rise to 16.9%, its highest point in 13 years.

“Unfortunately, predictions are coming true: According to official statistics, the number of poor people has reached 22 million,” Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets told a Russian television station.

Additional Western sanctions have caused a steep decline in the price of oil, Russia’s largest export, further damaging the country’s economy and job market. In 2014, the amount of social service agency employees in Russia was cut by 6.5%. Experts are predicting that far more job cuts will follow, affecting 33 different regions of the country over the next few years.

Poverty in Russia is also proving to be immensely damaging to education. According to the Accounts Chamber report, 9,500 towns with populations between 300 and 1,500 had no preschool facilities, and one-third of these towns had no public transportation.

Between this year and 2018, 5.6% of Russia’s preschools are expected to close, as well as 6% of primary and secondary schools, 14.7% of orphanages and 16.1% of vocational schools.

As conditions in Russia continue to worsen, work must continue to be done to improve the quality of life within the country.

Alexander Jones

Sources: World Socialist Web Site, International Business Times, Moscow Times
Photo: Business Insider

Foreign Policy
Foreign policy is the manner in which a country behaves toward other members of the international community. It involves a state setting an agenda and using its resources to achieve established goals. Nations strive to achieve foreign policy goals with a combination of the instruments discussed below.

 

Effective Tools for Achieving Foreign Policy Goals

 

Diplomacy
Diplomacy is the act of working and negotiating with representatives of foreign nations to reach consensus and set the stage for future rules. This can involve working on the development of accords, treaties, alliances and conventions. Diplomats form relationships with officials from other countries to understand their perspectives, while simultaneously portraying and promoting the values and position of the United States. Although there are many images in the media depicting diplomatic meetings regarding large-scale foreign policy decisions, most diplomatic relations — especially those of particular importance — occur behind the scenes through private discussions and negotiations. In addition to discussing issues with foreign officials, diplomats meet with many other members of foreign societies, ranging from business officials to representatives of nongovernmental organizations. By cultivating connections throughout civil society, diplomats can gain a better understanding of a country’s culture in order to find common ground on which to base relations and actions.

Foreign Aid
States can use foreign aid to achieve foreign policy objectives abroad, build relationships with other nations and address issues of humanitarian concern. There are various forms of aid, including foreign military aid, humanitarian assistance, food aid and general development aid. Foreign military aid involves augmenting another nation’s supply of military equipment and technological capabilities. Military aid can help a state indirectly influence the balance of power in areas abroad, therefore increasing a country’s sphere of influence. Military aid can also serve to help another country defend itself based on commonly shared ideals and values. Alternatively, states can give economic aid to other countries in order to stimulate growth or help with specific project development. The United States currently spends less than one percent of its budget on foreign aid.

Sanctions
Countries can use sanctions in an attempt to change another country’s behavior. Sanctions can be used to express dislike for a current behavior, limit opportunities for such behavior to continue and deter other countries from taking similar courses of action. Different types of sanctions include arms embargoes, trade embargoes, asset freezes and travel restrictions. Historically, sanctions have been put in place in an attempt to take a stand against human rights violations.

Military Force
Using military force — or hard power — in foreign relations involves states using their military to influence the behavior of weaker nations or directly involve themselves in the c0untry. The United States currently has the most powerful military in the world.

Deterrence
States can deter other states from taking an action by convincing opponents that the costs will exceed the benefits. This can happen through diplomacy or the threat of military action.

When making decisions that affect the international community, as many decisions do, states either behave unilaterally, bilaterally or multilaterally. Unilateral action indicates that a state is acting alone, independent of common norms or rules of world order. Unilateral actions tend to be based on self-interest rather than on international standards of behavior. Meanwhile, bilateral action indicates that two states are acting together. Finally, multilateral actions indicate a multiplayer coordination of efforts based on commonly shared norms. A nation’s approach toward cooperation with other nations in dealing with its foreign policy agenda is very influential in the effectiveness of each of the tools.

The foreign policy tools actually used are largely dependent on a nation’s foreign policy agenda. Most contemporary issues are seen to be multifaceted in nature, and will thus need to be approached with a combination of these instruments. The established goals of a state’s foreign policy agenda will also affect the choice of tools. In reality, the actual usage of these tools is not only dependent on what goals are being pursued, but on what resources are available.

– Arin Kerstein

Sources: Global Issues, Government of the Netherlands, United States Diplomacy Center
Photo: Council on Foreign Relations

venezuelan poverty
On July 30, the U.S. State Department announced sanctions on visas for officials in President Maduro’s Venezuelan government. The sanctions came as a response to human rights abuses sustained by peaceful opposition protestors objecting to a recent rise in Venezuelan poverty.

“Today’s announcement sends an unambiguous and direct message to President Maduro,” says Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Menendez has authored a bill called the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014. This bill would require heavier sanctions on individuals who have committed human rights abuses towards the demonstrators in Venezuela.

“Human Rights Watch has documented more than 40 deaths, 50 cases of torture, and over 2,000 unlawful detentions,” Menendez says in regard to the recent demonstrations.

Since February, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have taken to the streets in protest of President Maduro’s policies, which have sent the country into a political and economic crisis.

When Hugo Chavez took over the Venezuelan political system in 1998, he did so with the promise that the people would prosper under his government. From 2003 to 2007, the Chavista government seemed to working for the people, as Venezuelan poverty rates dropped. When Nicolas Maduro took over after Chavez’s death in 2013, he swore to stay true to Chavista policies.

However, recently the trend has reversed. A report released by Venezuela’s official statistics office admits that one in three Venezuelans are poor, a decline from a year ago when only one in four were poor.

The statistics for extreme Venezuelan poverty are worse. The office estimates that 10 percent of the population does not make enough money to afford basic food and drink.

“The sharp fall in the standard of living is what brought protestors to Venezuela’s streets,” reports Foreign Policy.

The protestors were peaceful, but the government’s reaction was not.

“The United States will never tolerate systemic human rights violations conducted by a merciless government against its own people,” says Menendez.

Congress had reportedly been considering a similar move against Venezuela since March of this year, but the State Department acted first. This is in spite of earlier claims by the Obama Administration that any sanctions against Venezuela would allow its government to rally support and use the U.S. as a scapegoat.

The sanctions deny a list of 24 high-ranking officials of President Maduro’s government from entering the U.S.

Elias Jaua is the Venezuelan Foreign Minister. He calls the sanctions, “desperate,” and warns against a possible backlash.

Julianne O’Connor

Sources: Foreign Policy, BBC, The Globe and Mail, U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Photo: BBC

sanctions on hezbollah
On July 22, the House of Representatives voted 404-0 to pass legislation that would introduce sanctions on Hezbollah and its foreign assets. Hezbollah has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States since 1995, and operates out of Lebanon. The sanctions aim to financially cripple the group, in turn protecting the Lebanese people from further poverty.

Hezbollah has played a critical role in the conflict in Syria. In April of 2014, the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, boldly stated that the war had essentially ended. He asserted that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria had regained control of the country and had won.

Nasrallah spoke as Hezbollah continued to intensify involvement in the conflict, fighting for Assad’s continued reign.

The reaction in Lebanon to Hezbollah’s involvement has been tense, as many fear it may carry the conflict back to Lebanon.

Even without the war taking place in Lebanon, the people feel the effects of the Syrian conflict. As hundreds of thousands of refugees pour into Lebanon, the economy is slipping.

“For each of the conflict years, we found that growth has been 2.9 percent lower than [had the conflict not happened]” Eric Le Borgne, lead Lebanon economist for The World Bank, explains.

IRIN reported in 2013 that 170,000 Lebanese were in danger of falling into poverty for reasons caused by the Syrian conflict. Lebanon is a small country, with a population of only four million, and cannot withstand the surge of 800,000 refugees.

The Syrian conflict, which has generated poverty and destruction outside its borders, not only in Lebanon, but also in other refugee-host countries, such as Afghanistan, has been escalated by foreign involvement. Hezbollah is one of the main contributors to the violence.

Furthermore, Hezbollah is known to be in close alliance with the Iranian government. Recently, Iranian news agency, Fars, published an article titled Iran Urges Palestinian, Syrian, Lebanese Resistance Groups to Ink Defense Pact.

Effectively, this means that an attack on one of the groups from Israel would constitute an attack on all of them. The defense pact would heighten tensions in the region, and any attack on one group would involve multiple countries.

Analyzing the effects of the conflict in Syria on Lebanese poverty alone provides reason enough to avoid inflaming conflict.

The new sanctions passed in the House are an important step against poverty. The sanctions would specifically target Hezbollah’s foreign finances by allowing the Department of the Treasury to deny payable-through accounts in the U.S. through foreign financial institutions connected to Hezbollah activity.

The legislation would also allow the President to officially categorize Hezbollah as a foreign narcotics trafficker and transnational criminal organization in addition to its terrorist organization designation.

“Today we have the opportunity to place a critical blow to Hezbollah,” said Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the bill’s sponsor. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., compared these sanctions to the ones placed on Iran over its nuclear weapons development. Engel proposed that the current negotiations with Iran are happening because of the international sanctions.

“This can be done with Hezbollah. This is what we’re trying to do today,” he says, providing a beacon of hope for further peace in the region.

Julianne O’Connor

Sources: The Algemeiner, IRIN, The Guardian, The Hill
Photo: NYTimes