Sanctions are taking their toll on Iran, but Iranians appear ready to pay the price. A recent Gallup poll of public opinion in Iran found that while 56 percent believe sanctions have hurt Iranians’ livelihoods, and 48 percent say sanctions have hurt them personally, 63 percent think Iran should continue to develop its nuclear program anyway. Moreover, 47 percent of those polled hold the U.S. responsible for sanctions, while only 10 percent fault the mullahs.
It’s never worth making hay out of polls taken in oppressive societies (we can’t know whether answers were given out of honesty or fear), but it’s hard not to conclude that sanctions aren’t having the effect the President hoped. Severe economic pressure isn’t convincing ordinary people or the government to give up the program, nor does it seem to be driving a wedge between them. If neither of these things is happening, it’s unlikely that sanctions are giving America the leverage it needs to force the mullahs to make a deal.
Without this leverage, it’s not clear whether sanctions will ultimately help us avoid the choice the White House has done so much to evade: the ugly choice between war with Iran or accepting a nuclear Iran.