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8 May 2012, Foreign Affairs

Sanctions Are Only a Stop-Gap

The Western sanctions imposed on Iran to force it to abandon its nuclear programme have succeeded in bringing Tehran back to the negotiating table, but they are a tactic, not a strategy. Any long-term policy has to aim for a democratic Iran.

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To judge the effectiveness of Western sanctions against Iran, it is important to first establish their purpose. U.S. officials and their European counterparts have set out a number of different goals for the sanctions regime, including deterring the proliferation of nuclear technology across the Middle East, as other countries imitate Iran, and persuading Iran to comply with the UN Security Council’s orders to suspend all nuclear enrichment. The sanctions have met some of those aims and failed to meet others. But for the Obama administration, they have succeeded in one crucial way — bringing Iran back to the negotiating table. The question, then, is not whether sanctions have worked but whether the strategy they serve is correct.


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Copyright © 2012 by the Council on Foreign Relations, Inc.


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