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Why Iran may now be more vulnerable to sanctions

Political turmoil and the growing influence of the Revolutionary Guard may make Iran more vulnerable to any upcoming sanctions, as the Obama Administration considers new measures to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

By Staff writer / January 4, 2010



Istanbul, Turkey

Iran’s internal unrest and the growing influence of the Revolutionary Guard may make the Islamic Republic more vulnerable to any upcoming sanctions, as the Obama Administration considers new measures to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

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Years of sanctions aimed at stopping Iran’s nuclear progress – three layers imposed by the UN Security Council, and a host of measures from the US and European Union – have done little to change Iran’s policies.

Iran’s top officials, in fact, regularly boast that sanctions have forced them to new levels of technical prowess and self-sufficiency, by enriching uranium and building from scratch what they say is a peaceful nuclear power program.

But as the White House signals that it is pursuing targeted sanctions against Iran – a shift from the “crippling sanctions” once posited by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the bills before Congress to strangle gasoline imports to Iran – analysts suggest that sanctions could have greater impact today.

Iran is “more vulnerable in two ways,” says Shahram Chubin, a Geneva-based Iran expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

First, protests and street clashes since disputed presidential elections last June means that a “significant” portion of Iranians “are likely to blame the regime for sanctions which are not so broad as to hurt everybody,” says Dr. Chubin.

Second, the Revolutionary Guard’s expanding control over more diverse chunks of the Iranian economy – including billions of dollars of new acquisitions and contracts in the past six months – make it a “bigger target [and] so presumably it could be targeted relatively accurately,” says Chubin.

Still, he adds, even a careful combination of such sanctions – aimed solely at the Revolutionary Guard and its front companies, for example – is not likely to make Iran “more vulnerable in the sense that tomorrow they are going to stop the [nuclear] program.”

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