Iran sanctions: Amid signs they're working, EU aiming for more

The renewed focus on sanctions over Iran's nuclear program comes as concerns have subsided that an Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities is imminent.

AP
This photo, taken by an individual not employed by The Associated Press and obtained by AP outside Iran shows Iranian police officers blocking a street as garbage cans are set on fire, in central Tehran, near Tehran's old main bazaar, on Wednesday, Oct. 3.

Western powers are planning another turn of the sanctions screw over Iran’s nuclear program even as the deployment Wednesday of riot police in Tehran’s streets suggests that existing sanctions against Iran are having a significant impact on its economy.

Following recent US steps to fill the holes of the sanctions already in place, European Union foreign ministers will meet this month with the goal of implementing another round of measures aimed at pressuring the regime.

“Our hope is to announce a new set of sanctions at the meeting on Oct. 15,” says a senior European official in Washington. “We know the existing [EU] sanctions are really hurting,” the official says, adding that the focus now is to “bring the Iranian economy to its knees – in a way that really hurts the regime more than the Iranian people.”

The renewed focus on sanctions to constrain Iran to change course in its nuclear program comes as concerns have subsided that an Israeli military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities is imminent.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the international community through his speech at the United Nations General Assembly last week that Israel has a “red line” for Iran’s uranium enrichment program that will trigger action. But he also suggested that Israel does not see Iran crossing that line until at least next spring or summer.

US and EU officials say that since his speech, Mr. Netanyahu has indicated in discussions that he is prepared to see what results redoubled sanctions and world powers’ negotiations with Tehran can yield. Netanyahu is expected to visit European capitals soon to press for toughened sanctions, but it seems unlikely his trip would take place before the EU foreign ministers' meeting.

The EU is expected to consider new measures aimed at the Iranian Central Bank, and additional means of cutting off Iran’s access to transactions through European banks.

The EU this summer began a full embargo on imports of Iranian oil, a move that experts say has had a significant impact on Iran’s economy. At the same time ,the United States has reinforced efforts to compel other international buyers of Iran’s crude to cut or end their purchases – by cutting off the US financial system to countries still buying Iranian oil.

One of the clearest effects of the sanctions is a steep decline in the value of Iran’s currency, the rial – a collapse that played a role in the demonstrations that hit Tehran’s streets Wednesday. Riots erupted after police wielding batons and hurling tear gas moved to shut down the capital’s black-market trade in foreign currencies.

The clashes follow months of warnings from some Iranian politicians and clerics that the country’s sinking economy could lead to unrest.

That estimation parallels a recent Israeli Foreign Ministry report that found social malaise in Iran mounting over economic conditions. The report even held out the prospect of an organized public reaction to deteriorating living conditions eventually challenging the Iranian regime.

Western officials are encouraged by what they say are signs of weakness in the regime, and are hopeful that the turmoil might yet prompt Iran’s leaders – supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is the only one who matters, they say – to reach a resolution that verifiably blocks Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon.

But they acknowledge that, before arriving at that point, the tough sanctions on Iran are affecting the Iranian population in unforeseeable ways.

Calling a change in the Iranian regime “really the best result,” the senior European official says Western officials realize the toughened sanctions could have the opposite effect.

“Yes, there is a risk” of deteriorating living conditions being blamed on the international community and as a result reinforcing the regime, he says. “But for the moment, we are not seeing that.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.