At an event held today at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “Taking Tehran’s Temperature: One Year On,” some of the world’s top scholars on Iran, including Abbas Milani, Gary Sick, and Karim Sadjadpour, spoke about Iran’s domestic political situation and American policy towards the Islamic Republic.
While Iran’s nuclear ambitions were not a focus of the panel, Professor Sick included substantive commentary on the recent round of UN sanctions. He stated clearly that sanctions do not work—noting most specifically that “when sanctions began, Iran had zero centrifuges. Today, after four UN Security Council sanctions resolutions, Iran has 9000 centrifuges.” He went on to explain that “Iran doesn’t like sanctions,” however if they are imposed, Iran will live with them; but, if they are threatened, Iran is likely to compromise in order to avoid them. This, he says, is what happened with the Brazil-Turkey deal. The West’s failure to take advantage of this opening was a “terrible decision,” missing the opportunity to use sanctions for what they do best—leverage. Missed opportunities (which he expands on in his blog), he says, are the most disappointing aspect of recent events.
Professor Sick added that threatening smart sanctions- which target the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and not the citizens of Iran- could be effective. Details of the newest round of UN sanctions are included in the Annex of the most recent version of the resolution, which is expected to see a vote tomorrow. The text of the Annex is, unfortunately, not available to the public, so we cannot yet conclude if these sanctions are “smart”, or will be as futile as those in the past.