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In the age of Covid, sanctions against ‘rogue states’ just spread the misery

5 18 27

The sight of a tearful Kim Jong-un sobbing, not waving, at last weekend’s grand military parade in Pyongyang has upset the west’s familiar North Korea narrative. Was Kim putting on a show of contrition for failing his cruelly oppressed people, or was he genuinely distressed? Did it mean, despite the unveiling of yet another bigger, nuclear-capable, long-range missile, that the regime was losing its grip? Or is it simply Kim who’s lost it?

Given mounting pressure from UN and US sanctions and drastic falls in trade and aid caused by the pandemic, it would hardly be surprising if Kim were feeling the strain. Yet despite all the international hostility surrounding him, Kim’s sudden downfall or the chaotic collapse of his regime would be viewed as extremely dangerous and destabilising – at least in the short term.

The Korean conundrum reflects the perils – strategic, political and moral – implicit in the merciless, usually US-orchestrated pummelling and ostracism of so-called “rogue states” in the age of Covid. As Colin Powell, a former US secretary of state, liked to say, politicians should be careful what they wish for – lest it come true. Leaders and governments bent, for whatever reason, on tormenting others into submission risk creating a bottomless torment for themselves.

The awful suffering of Iran’s people is another case in point. The way the Trump administration tells it, Iranians are victims of their terrorist regime. But they are victims, too, of Washington’s blocking of a $5bn IMF loan to help Iran fight coronavirus. They are victims of additional American sanctions this month against 18 Iranian banks that mostly deal in domestic credit. US measures also indirectly imperil imports of food and vital medical........

© The Guardian

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