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Sanctions Harm But Don’t Halt Iran

A newly released report from the International Energy Agency indicates that U.S. and E.U.-led sanctions are beginning to make a serious dent in Iran’s economy. Most notably, the report estimates that the sanctions have reduced Iran’s oil exports by more than one million barrels a day. The Washington Post reports:

The agency estimates that the country’s oil exports have fallen by almost a third in the past three months, representing a substantial loss of income for the government.

The effect has been compounded, the agency said, because Iran’s government was apparently caught off-guard by buyers’ strict compliance with the sanctions and by new restrictions preventing shipping insurance for vessels delivering Iranian goods. Actual deliveries of oil from the country dropped to a new low of 860,000 barrels a day in September.

News that sanctions are finally making a mark is encouraging, but they still haven’t been successful where it counts: stopping Iran’s nuclear program. And as the Post points out, sanctions are increasingly unlikely to accomplish this goal:

Despite the severe toll taken by the sanctions, regional analysts warn that the measures are unlikely to persuade Iran to abandon its uranium-enrichment program, even as it faces a deepening economic crisis at home…

One U.S.-based economist said the broad picture is that sanctions against Iran are proving effective but not decisive.

Sanctions are an important part of the effort to peacefully resolve the nuclear dispute with Iran, but they do not by themselves constitute a complete policy. While data demonstrating deep impact on Iranian oil exports is a positive sign, sanctions alone probably won’t bring Iran’s mullahs to a real negotiating table.

An important question now is whether average Iranians will blame their economic hardships on the mullahs or on the West. Unless Iranians become so fed up with their economic situation that they rise up in numbers much larger than 2009’s Green movement, sanctions will not make life difficult enough for Iran’s ruling elite to make them halt their uranium enrichment experiment.

New policies that complement current sanctions are needed in order to bring the mullahs to the negotiating table. Continuing to just refine and tighten sanctions can only do so much. Hopefully the presidential candidates will lay out some new ideas during Monday’s foreign policy debate.

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