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Sanctions and Iran

Posted by Jill Marie Parillo on April 19, 2009

A Congressional testimony, called "Changing Iran's behavior" by Dr. Trita Parsi, is one of the most concise and comprehensive explanations of why more sanctions (in the form of divestment) will not provoke positive change in Iran's government. Key points:

  • Sanctions have hurt the Iranian economy, but have failed to change the government's behavior.
  • The government can use oil revenues as a cushion to offset the effects of sanctions.
  • The people of Iran are directing their anger over economic distress towards the United States not their government.
  • Absent competition from international companies and the demands for transparency and efficiency, sanctions strengthen the hard-line elements' hold and control over the economy.
  • Entities connected to the government, such as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, profit from their involvement in the smuggling trade.
  • The Iranian government's success in circumventing sanctions makes Iran less sensitive to new sanctions. There is a diminishing return on additional sanctions.
  • Economic sanctions weaken the emerging middle class, whose income is dependent on the advancement of the non-state economy. As long as the lion's share of the economy is controlled by the state, room for pushing for political liberalization will be severely limited.
  • What has been lacking, is confidence in Tehran that a change in behavior would lead to the lifting of sanctions.
  • Reality is that Washington has significant leverage over Tehran if willingness exists to trade away existing sanctions for extensive changes in Iranian policies.
  • It is not the threat or imposition of new sanctions that is likely to achieve the desired changes in Iranian behavior, but the promise of lifting existing ones.
  • Neither threats nor promises are likely to succeed if they are made from a distance.
  • In this atmosphere of mistrust, neither side has much room for error... Congress passing additional sanctions before diplomacy has begun...would only reduce the prospects for diplomacy by poisoning the atmosphere and further increasing mistrust.
  • After a decade-and-a-half of failed sanctions and economic pressure, and three decades of hostility, it is not sanctions or divestment that deserves another chance. It is diplomacy and the opportunity to use the leverage that sanctions provide in the context of a negotiation that should be given the space and time to succeed.

See the full text here.

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