November 16, 2011

Sanctions Strategy Scrutinized at Atlantic Council Event

Kimberly Elliott
Kimberly Elliott, Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development

Washington, DC – “The Obama administration should put more
energy into pursuing a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear conundrum,
which would intensify pressure on the Iranian government with the least adverse
consequences for the global economy and the Iranian people,” said Barbara Slavin, Senior
Fellow at the Atlantic Council, last week.

Speaking at a presentation of the Atlantic Council’s latest
Iran report, Iran Turns to China, Barter
to Survive Sanctions
 Slavin and other experts assessed the efficacy and consequences of U.S.
sanctions in place on Iran.

“What started out as a smart policy of surgical sanctions,
in my mind has become dumber and dumber over time, and are hurting more and
more people,” explained Slavin.  “I would hope Congress would be really careful about this
and that they would try to listen to a wide variety of voices in the Green
Movement and the Iranian Diaspora.”

“Sanctions can only be effective if the costs that the
sanctions impose on the target…are greater than the costs of the target
perceived from the line of the sanctioner’s demands,” said Kimberly Elliott,
Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development.

“The messaging needs
to be carefully done,” said Elliott.  She
explained that sanctions are ineffective if there is no clearly defined
goal.  “Often there are multiple goals,
often they are ill-defined, often there are differences within the sanctioning
coalition about priorities over different objectives.”

In the case of U.S. sanctions against Iran, Elliott inferred
that—in lieu of clear goals—the costs of the objective as perceived by Tehran
may outweigh the costs that the sanctions themselves are inflicting.

“When you have regime change as a goal of the sanctions,
along with some ‘other things,’” explained Elliott, “you’re almost certainly
not going to achieve those ‘other things’ on [non-]proliferation or human

Also speaking was John Garver
of the Georgia Institute of Technology, who explained that U.S. and European
restrictions have helped bolster Iran’s trade relationship with China.  Chinese exports to Iran have increased
sixteen-fold since 2001, and trade with China accounts for nearly 18 percent of
Iran’s total commerce.

In addressing potential next steps, Elliott explained how, rather
than proposing an oil boycott or imposing sanctions on the Central Bank of
Iran, the U.S. may need to focus on other avenues.

“Sanctions take time,” for coordination and to take effect, said
Elliott. “If time is really short with Iran and something has to be done
quickly, then I think we have to think about the carrots side of the equation.”




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