Iran Sanctions: After 35 Years of Sanctions Six Lessons to be Learnt

Iran Sanctions: After 35 Years of Sanctions Six Lessons to be Learnt

After 35 years of sanctions against Iran, which lessons can be learnt? Many commentators of sanctions focus on the consequences for industry or analyse sanctions within the broader context of foreign security relations. In my article, Iran Sanctions: After 35 Years of Sanctions Six Lessons to be Learnt (alas only in Dutch), I focus on the art of designing sanctions, what can we learn and apply to other sanctions regimes?

2015 has seen a gradual change in the landscape of the application of sanctions. In regard to Iran, hopefully the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Iran en de P5+1 (Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council + Germany) will end Iran’s international pariah status.

This might also apply to Burma (Myanmar), as a result of the landmark election of Aung San Suu Kyi. Or Cuba, where the easing, which might lead to the gradual uplifting, of the U.S. boycott against the communist led island. Hopefully, the current détente between Cuba and the U.S. will continue to flourish, whereby the crippling U.S. sanctions against the communist led island will also be uplifted.

The sanctions against Iran have taught us that designing restrictive measures is an art. President Roosevelt and PM Winston Churchill Atlantic Charter_Photo US Navy U.S. Historical Center Photograph NH 67209

Both opponents and supporters of sanctions have been proven right and wrong. Opponents cite that it took nearly 35 years until parties reached an agreement, although not all the issues have been resolved.

Images of Foreign Policy and Economic SanctionsSupporters cite that the pressure of sanctions, the jingling of coins was better than the rattling of sabers.

Ultimately, the right conditions for an effective sanctions regime was created, i.e. (i) patience, (ii) assembling and maintaining a coalition of like-minded countries to support sanctions, (iii) the willingness of the U.S. (principal sender of sanctions) to penalize friends, (iv) minimizing the imposition of controversial unilateral sanctions, but demonstrating the willingness to adopt restrictive measures with extra-territorial effect, (v) investing in the design of comprehensive restrictive measures, and (vi) undermining the cohesiveness of political elites.

Although some of heralded the JCPOA as a historic agreement, this remains to be seen. To be historic, as in the case of uplifting international sanctions against Apartheid South Africa, we still have a way to go. The mutual distrust between parties is still present, e.g. Tehran’s continued compliance with the JCPOA has to be sustained and other sanctions regimes (relating to human rights abuses and state sponsorship of terrorism) remain in place.

Let us see whether the art of sanctions deliver the results which we are all hoping for….


1 Comment on "Iran Sanctions: After 35 Years of Sanctions Six Lessons to be Learnt"

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