Weighing Benefits and Costs of International Sanctions Against Iran

December 6, 2012

            The United States could better leverage sanctions against Iran while mitigating negative consequences, according to a new report by former U.S. ambassadors, generals, officials and national security experts. International sanctions imposed on Iran over the last three decades have differing goals. Some sanctions focus exclusively on the nuclear program or human rights, while others curtail Iran’s ability to fund Hamas and Hezbollah. They are less effective without a unified strategy and could create further human suffering in Iran or weaken civil society. But The Iran Project report stresses that the negotiating strategy is just as important as the sanctions themselves.

            The following are excerpts from the executive summary with a link to the full report.
 

The complexity of the sanctions regime.

            Sanctions against Iran have been imposed through Executive Orders and legislation
in the United States; resolutions passed by the United Nations Security Council; andactions taken by foreign governments. Different sets of sanctions rely on different criteria, guidelines, and implementation vehicles. They also aim at a variety of outcomes,including achieving a negotiated agreement on Iran’s nuclear program; restricting Iran’sability to acquire materials for that program; slowing the development of Iran’s nuclearprogram; ensuring that Iran discontinues funding of Hezbollah and Hamas; requiring Iran to respect the human rights of its citizens; limiting Iran’s ability to exert infuence in the region; and, for some in Washington, producing a change in Iran’s government(regime change or a fundamental change in the Iranian government’s policy and orien-tation), although this latter objective has been disavowed by the U.S. government. The sanctions regime also includes a complicated mix of criteria and provisions for lifting or easing the sanctions currently in place, should that be warranted by Iranian actions...
 
            We believethe United States might be better able to gauge and maximize the effectiveness of recent sanctions if the objectives that are most relevant and pressing today could be disentangled from other objectives that have been linked with sanctions...
 
Benefits and potential benefits of sanctions

·A basis for coalition building...

·Slowing the expansion of Iran's nuclear program...

·Weakening the Iranian economy...

·Regional military balance increasingly unfavorable to Iran...

·Elite distress and public unhappiness over economic conditions...

·Enhanced sanctions might change Iran's nuclear negotiating strategy...

 

Costs and potential costs of sanctions

·Disputes with allies and other countries...

·Increased corruption and control of the economy by unaccountable factions...

·A basis for coalition building...

·Empowering anti-reform voices and disempowering civil society...

·Long-term alientation between the United States and Iran...

·Increased potential for conflict...

·Potential humanitarian effects...

·Detrimental economic effects on the United States, its European allies, and the region...

·Detrimental effects on the global energy supply and the stability of the global energy market...

Click here for the full report.