New sanctions have caused ETS, the Educational Testing Service, to block Iranian students from taking standardized tests required for Western educations, such as the TOEFL and the GRE.
From ETS’s website:

Registration temporarily suspended in Iran
The United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution affecting banks and financial institutions that conduct business in Iran. As a result of this resolution, ETS is currently unable to process payments from Iran and has had to temporarily suspend registration until alternative arrangements can be made. Please check back after July 22 for an update.

This means it will now be even harder for Iranian students to study in the US, since these tests are a prerequisite for most admissions applications.  Iranian students already face an inordinately strict visa process in which they are only eligible for single-entry visas.  This policy is unique to Iran in the Middle East, by the way; Saudi students, Syrian students, Lebanese students — they are all eligible for multiple-entry visas, yet Iran is not.
But what is most troubling about this newest impact of sanctions is that it runs directly counter to the stated interests of US foreign policy on Iran.
In Obama’s Nowruz address last March, he said:

[E]ven as we continue to have differences with the Iranian government, we will sustain our commitment to a more hopeful future for the Iranian people. For instance, by increasing opportunities for educational exchanges so that Iranian students can come to our colleges and universities

This commitment was echoed every time the Administration stressed the targeted nature of these new sanctions; that they will impose penalties on Iran’s government — not its people.  And yet, the reality continues to prove otherwise.
There is even reason to believe this unforeseen consequence of sanctions runs counter to our covert operations involving Iran.  The so-called “brain drain” program which seeks to lure Iranian nuclear scientists to defect surely involves some type of academic cover.  That was clearly the case with Shahram Amiri’s bizarre ordeal, since his CIA handlers set him up with a university posting in Arizona.  The point of any type of “brain drain” program is to lure the current generation — and perhaps more importantly the next generation — of intellectual leaders in fields like nuclear science out of the country.  The single most effective tool in reaching that goal is simply getting them to study in US universities while they’re young.  We have the best colleges in the world, and oftentimes that experience is transformative.
Sadly, the unintended consequences of sanctions continue to have the exact opposite effect of President Obama’s goal of distinguishing between the Iranian government and its people.  And three decades of evidence suggests that the Iranian government gains enormously every time we make that same mistake.

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