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Report: Why Sanctions On Iran Aren't Working

Iran is currently facing the most severe and strictest sanctions ever imposed on a country. Though these measures seek to curb Iranian nuclear ambitions, a recent IAEA report suggests continued nuclear advances by Iran. This begs the question: are sanctions affecting Tehran's nuclear calculus?

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Contact: Reza Marashi
(202) 379-1639
rmarashi@niacouncil.org

New report explains why economic pain has not caused Tehran to shift its nuclear policy

never give in and never give up.pngWashington DC - Sanctions have so far failed to affect the Iranian government's nuclear policy and are unlikely to do so in the future given the perceptions and calculations of the Iranian elite, according to a new report by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).

"Never Give In and Never Give Up” [pdf] studies the impact of sanctions on Tehran’s nuclear calculus and identifies the factors that have enabled the Iranian government to sustain its policy, despite mounting economic pressure.

"Sanctions have had a devastating impact on the Iranian economy," says Dr. Trita Parsi, one of the authors of the report. "But they have also prevented Iranian stakeholders from constructing a narrative that could enable policy changes. And contrary to expectations in the U.S., key stakeholders in the Iranian regime have not lobbied the government to shift its nuclear stance."

Relying on over 30 in-depth interviews with senior Iranian political officials, analysts and members of the business community, the report was authored by renowned Iranian economist Bijan Khajehpour, NIAC Research Director Reza Marashi, and NIAC President Trita Parsi.

As a result, the authors contend that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s narrative – which portrays the West as a brutal group out to “get” Iran and keep it dependent on foreign powers – continues to dominate the discourse within Iran’s political elite and guide its decision-making.  In turn, private lobbying campaigns have tended to focus on securing domestic economic concessions rather pushing for nuclear concessions to the West.

"Overall, Iran’s response to sanctions can be broken down into three separate but mutually reinforcing categories,” explains Reza Marashi. "Adapting its economy to bend but not break, increasing efforts to target Western and Israeli interests around the world, and counter-escalating by creating new facts on the ground with regard to its nuclear program."

It is highly unlikely that Iran will succumb to sanctions pressure at a time when Khamenei’s narrative remains unchallenged, key stakeholders are not visibly lobbying for policy shifts, and no proportionate sanctions relief is put on the negotiating table by Western powers, according to the report.

"Ultimately, capitulation to Western pressure is viewed by the Iranian regime as a greater threat to its survival than even a military confrontation with the United States," Bijan Khajehpour concludes.

 

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The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the interests of the Iranian-American community. We accomplish our mission by supplying the resources, knowledge and tools to enable greater civic participation by Iranian Americans and informed decision-making by policymakers.


 

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