Beyond the Womb and Wild: The Potential International Impact of the Nullification of Roe v. Wade

Photo Credit: Tony Webster

By Lilit Arakelyan
Staff Writer

The possible revoking of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in the case of Roe v. Wade has sparked intense debate and protest across the United States. This landmark case protects women’s right to abortion in the United States and set a precedent for the expansion of reproductive rights globally. Now, the fate of this epochal case has been called into question over the possibility of a ban on abortion that would take effect immediately for about half of the nation. In light of the leaked draft opinion, this would not be the first time in history that abortion has been legalized, then taken away.

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Explosives to Electronics: Examining the Historical Dynamics of Chile’s Mining Industry to Modernity

Photo Credit: Municipalidad Antofagasta

By Mihir Shenoy
Contributing Writer

Chile’s newly-elected president wants to reform the way the nation’s resources are managed. President Gabriel Boric ran on a platform of standing up to private mining interests, supporting tax hikes, suing companies for exorbitant water use, and proposing a state-owned lithium company to compete with existing firms. Boric is seeking to reverse the detrimental effects that neoliberalism has had on Chile’s mining industry. This shift towards heightened government regulation would not just affect mining in Chile but also the world, as Chile’s resources are becoming increasingly important to sustainable global development. Currently, Chile supplies the world with 25% of its copper and 20% of its lithium, a component of the lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles. The administration’s desire to nationalize and redistribute profits from these essential resources stems from a legacy of Chile’s history of heavy foreign investment and financial speculation. 

Chile’s first major industrial mining operations extracted a relatively obscure material, nitrate, which is used in fertilizers and gunpowder. It is rather fitting then that the industry began a period of modernization following war. In the aftermath of the War of the Pacific (1879-83), Chile annexed Peruvian and Bolivian territory that bordered the Pacific Ocean. This region would become the country’s primary producer of nitrate and eventually copper and lithium. However, the territory spanned the driest desert in the world, Atacama. To this day, the water-intensive mining industry drives conflict, as evidenced by Boric’s recent lawsuits.

During the war, John Thomas North from Great Britain purchased collapsed Peruvian nitrate bonds. After Chile annexed the territory, North was granted control over the nitrate fields, allowing him to monopolize nitrate production, waterworks, and railroads that served the region. After North’s death in 1896, a public-private enterprise known as the Compañía de Salitres de Chile (Cosach) emerged that skewed heavily towards private leadership under the American Guggenheims. Synthetic nitrate competition then forced Cosach to dissolve in 1933, crumbling the nitrate powerhouse. 

North and the Guggenheims exemplify a form of foreign investment that continued throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, where locals benefited from the burgeoning industry but were simultaneously tied by the actions of foreigners. Nitrate built up the port city of Iquique, a city in Atacama, and modernized the Chilean mining system to compete with the rest of the world. However, the Chilean nitrate economy depended unitarily on British and American corporate management. North lobbied Congress to prevent competing firms from undercutting price hikes, and the Guggenheims convinced American President Herbert Hoover to persuade Chilean President Carlos Ibáñez del Campo to create Cosach. The fear of foreign and plutocratic interests controlling Chilean resources thus has its roots in the monopolistic struggle over nitrate production during this period.

Though nitrate’s global demand has fallen, copper’s has not, and considering its value as an electrical conductor, is unlikely to decline in the near future. In the 1930s, industrial copper smelting rose in popularity partly due to the Guggenheims’ vast financing of mining operations, including the Chuquicamata mine, which was sold to the U.S. firm Anaconda Copper in 1923. Che Guevara visited this mine in 1951, noting the workers’ deteriorating health and low wages. Strikes had become a regular occurrence, and regulation efforts culminated in the 1971 decision to nationalize copper under President Salvador Allende. The state-owned industry, Codelco, survived privatization efforts under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and has remained the largest copper producer in Chile. However, today private companies collectively produce more copper than the state. 

The nitrate-copper sequence demonstrates a struggle between the Chilean government and foreign entities that continues today. Nitrate’s original privatization was ultimately split by state interests into a public-private partnership. Copper started off private, turned public under Allende, and then reverted partially to quasi-private control. Given Boric’s current plans to nationalize the lithium industry, the debate over private and public control remains an important but unsettled issue at a time when the world is entering an era of clean energy technologies which demands and depends on reliable and profitable resources such as lithium.

The future of Chile’s mineral industry remains uncertain, but its path will likely be different from that of the United States, another lithium-producing country. The United States has effectively entrusted the private sector with its mining needs, with companies such as Standard Oil, U.S. Steel, and Anaconda Copper dominating domestic and international markets. Yet, Chile’s major suppliers have historically shifted between public and private ownership, making a stable long-term economic strategy precarious. Additionally, the United States has historically been a larger financer than borrower regarding industrial development—something that cannot be said about Chile—which has facilitated American control over financial management decisions. Anaconda Copper’s prioritization of its copper profits over its workers and the Guggenheims’ collusion with the Hoover administration represent two examples of the effects that neoliberal imperialist interests have had on Chilean society. Chile’s nationalization efforts can be seen as a defense mechanism against American forces which could result in a different economic trajectory, one that prioritizes national well-being and security.

The battle between nationalization and foreign investment could also produce other modes of development. For example, domestic Chilean capital could gain influence in the lithium market and drive out international competitors that have historically owned nitrate and copper mines. Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile (SQM), one of the world’s top five lithium producers, began as a private-public enterprise, then became entirely publicly owned before privatizing fully in 1983, with controversial Chilean billionaire Julio Ponce Lerou the principal investor. This approach may allow Chileans to reap greater rewards from their natural resources, but the corruption associated with financiers like the Guggenheims and John Thomas North is unlikely to disappear simply with the transition to domestic private ownership.

As new mining projects emerge in Chile, economic and geopolitical interests raise prudent opportunities. Electric vehicle proliferation has resulted in a rapid increase in demand for lithium and a new age for Chilean mining. Most recently, the Boric-led government has adopted a nationalization strategy through regulation and tax hikes. Yet, Chile’s historical vacillation between private and public hands could breed lasting instability, which may engender geopolitical challenges between Chile and its trading partners. However, the history of wavering mining policy in Chile should not preclude investment into the Chilean mining industry, but rather encourage investors and politicians to study this history carefully to determine what development strategies work best for both Chileans and the rest of the world moving forward. 

On the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

Photo Credit: Dragan Tatic

By Pranav Reddy
Contributing Writer

A key element of U.S. foreign policy has been nuclear nonproliferation. In layman’s terms, the United States wants to prevent states that do not already have nuclear weapons from getting them. A notable example was Bill Clinton’s 1998 sanctions on India over its Pokhran-II nuclear device tests. More recently, the United States has focused primarily on preventing Iran and North Korea from acquiring nuclear capabilities. The United States’ favored instrument has been sanctions, which are aimed to force such states to halt their nuclear programs. In the hopes of a diplomatic resolution, the United States, European Union (EU), Iran, and the P5+1—the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany—signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on July, 14 2015 to limit Iran’s nuclear facilities to strictly civilian purposes. In exchange for compliance, the United States and the EU agreed to slowly lift sanctions. However, the Trump administration withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018, and despite calls for a revived deal by the current Biden administration, there is no guarantee one will form.

In order to analyze U.S.-Iran tensions, it is necessary to review—albeit summarily—the history of Iran during the Cold War. The original constitutional monarchy shared power between Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and the Pahlavi dynasty. Mossadegh frequently clashed with Reza Shah Pahlavi over several issues, such as cabinet appointees and, most importantly, foreign policy. The most controversial and ultimately fatal decision for Mossadegh was the vote to nationalize the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in 1951. The Eisenhower administration decided, along with the British government, to depose Mossadegh and replace him with the more pliable Reza Shah Pahlavi. In August 1953, the Central Intelligence Agency organized a coup, and within days the Shah had returned to power. Most importantly to the United States and United Kingdom, oil sales resumed. Mossadegh spent the rest of his life under house arrest after being convicted of treason. The Shah proceeded to rule from 1953 to 1979 and enjoyed generous U.S. support—primarily through arms sales—despite his abysmal human rights abuses, leading Amnesty International to remark, “The shah of Iran retains his benevolent image despite the highest rate of death penalties in the world, no valid system of civilian courts and a history of torture which is beyond belief.”

However, the Shah would face a popular uprising in 1979 featuring a bizarre alliance between Marxist guerillas, constitutionalist remnants of the National Front, and the Islamic fundamentalist Revolutionary Council, led by soon-to-be leader Ayatollah Khomeini. The coup also facilitated what would later be known as the Iranian hostage crisis. Seizing hostages from the American embassy in Tehran, the newly formed Islamic Republic of Iran demanded the extradition of the Shah to face trial for his crimes. The United States refused and instead granted him asylum. Subsequently, in September 1980, Saddam Hussein launched an invasion of Iran, which the United States supported by providing Iraq with both dual-use biological weapons and diplomatic cover for Iraq’s use of chemical weapons. After a prolonged and bloody stalemate, the war ended with a return to the status quo, and Iran returned all hostages unharmed after 444 days. To this day, animosity between the United States and Iran remains.

With this in mind, the case can be made that the United States has been, at best, an unreliable negotiator or, less generously, an imperial power looking to reestablish a friendly client state in Iran. This fundamental dynamic is at the core of what shapes U.S.-Iran relations, not the nebulous definition of state sponsors of terrorism, nor the Orientalist claims of Sunni-Shia tensions: Shia are the largest denomination in Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Bahrain, all of which are U.S. allies. The JCPOA, a product of the Obama administration, is a reversal of previous U.S. legislation. The JCPOA lists several restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program. Many of the demands are technical details on the mechanics of producing fissile material, but the overall goal is to restrict Iran to solely civilian energy production. In exchange, Iran expected certain EU and U.S. sanctions to be lifted by 2023.

At the time of U.S. withdrawal in May 2018, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had verified Iran’s full compliance with the deal, and the Trump administration did not mention any violations of the agreement in its statement of withdrawal. IAEA reports show that Iran fully complied until May 2019, when it began to progressively violate the JCPOA limits. In its most recent report released in March 2022, the IAEA indicates that Iran has enriched uranium to 60% purity (the JCPOA limit is 3.67%). Nevertheless, the IAEA reported in February 2022 that Iran was still two years away from a functioning nuclear weapon, and Israeli Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman stated that it may take up to five years. Iranian officials state that if the United States returns to the JCPOA, Iran will also return to the agreed-upon restrictions.

The election of Joe Biden led to renewed hopes of a deal. However, in the United States the agreement faces internal opposition. New York Times Opinion Columnist Bret Stephens argues that “[the Iran deal] leaves us even weaker and meeker than the previous deal.” Additionally, Rand Paul was the only Republican senator who did not oppose the new agreement. Time may not be on Biden’s side in negotiating a new deal. On average, the minority party has gained two Senate seats in a president’s first midterm cycle since 1950, and polling indicates that this trend may continue. Already, the talks in Vienna have hit numerous issues and delays, from protests over Russia’s participation to Iran demanding the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) be taken off the U.S. list of “foreign terrorist organizations.” Iranian officials want guarantees that the United States will not simply leave the agreement again for a second time. Despite this, there is a slim possibility that the removal of oil and financial sanctions may help the Biden administration resolve the current consumer crisis and lift his ailing approval ratings. Project Director of the Crisis Group’s Iran Project and Senior Advisor to the President, Ali Vaez notes that Iran had a slight rupture with Russia over its attempts to insert its own demands for the removal of sanctions from their invasion of Ukraine. These frays may indicate that a new deal could be quickly agreed upon before the November 2022 midterms.

Whether or not a new nuclear deal materializes remains to be seen. What can certainly be said is that the United States’ approach to Iran has failed to produce the desired results and has left Iran more fractured. From destroying the only democracy Iranians knew to the failed sanctions-based strategy that has contributed to its economic crisis, the United States has only pushed Iran closer to nuclear capabilities. At the same time, U.S. influence has only decreased; the Iraq and Afghanistan wars failed to ensure a U.S.-friendly regime remained comfortably in power, and the United States has been left with fewer options to maintain a positive presence in the Middle East. With increasing division over what Amnesty International has explicitly called Israeli apartheid, and the U.S. public very unhappy with the U.S.-Saudi Arabia alliance, the United States’ strategy of tension in the Middle East may soon be coming around in retaliation.