The failure of Western sanctions in Iran

Congressional Research Service (CRS) study shows economic sanctions against Iran have failed to prevent state from developing nuclear weapons

by Natalie Glanvill on 18 October 2012 16:58

Western economic sanctions on Iran have failed in their principle objective of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapons programme, according to a study by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) and reported by the Washington Free Beacon.

The study also says that Iran is rapidly developing its conventional capabilities and continues to support Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

“The principal objective of international sanctions—to compel Iran to verifiably confine its nuclear program to purely peaceful uses—has not been achieved to date,” the study says, adding that, “the Department of Defense and other assessments indicate that sanctions have not stopped Iran from building up its conventional military and missile capabilities , in large part with indigenous skills”.

It is equally scathing on Iran’s relationship with Syria:

“Iran is also judged [to be] not  complying with United Nation requirements that it halt any weapon shipments outside its borders, particularly with regard to purported Iranian weapons shipments to help the embattled Assad Government is Syria”.

Although economic sanctions have so far failed in in their attempt to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, sanctions on Iran’s oil export lifeline are “producing increasingly severe effects on Iran’s economy” says Kenneth Katzman, author of the report and Middle East Affairs specialist.

Prior to the imposition of European Union sanctions on 1 July 2012, EU countries were buying about 20 percent of Iran’s oil exports. Iran’s exports of oil provide 70 percent of the Islamic Republic’s revenue. The EU embargo is reinforced by several other Iranian oil customers which have substantially reduced purchases of Iranian oil “to about 1 million barrels per day as of October 2012, a dramatic decline from the 2.5 million barrels per day Iran exported during 2011,” says the report.

Elliot Abrams, former advisor to President George W. Bush told the Washington Free Beacon, “The CRS conclusions demonstrate the error of the Obama administration claims that their Iran policy is working. Sanctions hurt Iran’s economy, but that is not our goal; forcing change in the nuclear program is the goal and sanctions have not achieved it”.

Also, Iran continues to be an influential actor in its region, the report says. “Sanctions against Iran have not, to date, reduced Iran’s influence in the Middle East or its strategic capabilities in the Persian Gulf region. Iran continues to financially and militarily support militant movements in the Middle East”.

The UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in August that Iran was making steady progress towards atomic weapons development, and according to reports from Reuters has doubled the number of uranium enrichment centrifuges it stores underground.

As part of the third and final Presidential debate on Monday, the issue of Iran’s nuclear weapons capability is likely to be among the top foreign policy discussions. 

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