Q&A: Will Iran nuclear sanctions work?
As a debate over Iran nuclear sanctions take front stage at the G8 meeting in Quebec today, The Monitor looks at how effective past sanctions have been and what new measures are being considered.
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No. China's resistance makes it unlikely that new sanctions will be passed. What is more likely is a watered-down resolution that might add more Revolutionary Guard members to a blacklist and make recommendations against investment and business with Tehran.Skip to next paragraph
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The US and Europe had hoped to send a clear signal to Iran, but the lack of consensus weakens their message, says Kimberly Ann Elliott, an expert on trade policy at the Center for Global Development in Washington.
Many analysts say political rather than economic measures would be more effective in changing Tehran's behavior. "The most effective sanction on the Iranian economy is the Iranian government itself," says Ali Ansari, director of the Institute for Iranian Studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
He does not believe that economic sanctions would automatically cause a "rally around the flag" effect in Iran, swelling support for the government against a perceived Western oppression, but he says the West doesn't want to be painted by Mr. Ahmadinejad as responsible for the failure of his own economic policy.
"Sanctions must be done with a light touch, you've got to target them very specifically, and they have to reinforce the stupidity of the government," he says. But targeting the Revolutionary Guard has become more difficult since the Guard has become more involved in the general Iranian economy, says Ms. Elliott.
What's the next step for the US if UN sanctions don't pass?
The US and Europe will likely impose their own sanctions on Iran as they have done in the past; the US is already moving to do so. Both houses of Congress have passed legislation that would target companies that sell gas to Iran. But gasoline sanctions, says Elliott, "have a lot of risk," because they could allow Ahmadinejad's regime to end popular gasoline subsidies and blame it on the West.
Previous US sanctions on Iran have had little effect because they were unilateral, says Elliott, and sanctions that target companies who do business in Iran can also end up hurting US allies. Dr. Ansari says the US and the European Union need to enact robust policies to isolate the leaders responsible for human rights abuses as well as those associated with the nuclear program instead of relying on economic sanctions alone.
"I am very, very cautious on sanctions because I don't see them as a panacea," says Ansari. "The minute you see them as a panacea, then the minute they fail you're in a whole different ball game."