Sanctions on Iran have not worked in the past and will not work in the future, We need to renegotiate a nuclear peace deal

The Obama administration claimed that the sanctions on Iran brought Iran to the negotiation table and led to the Iran nuclear peace agreement. However, the Trump administration claimed that the US' nuclear weapons agreement with Iran was not strong enough, so the Trump administration ended the nuclear agreement and increased sanctions on the country. I disagree with both the Obama administration and the Trump administration. From careful examination it can be seen that, contrary to the Obama administration’s rhetoric, sanctions did not bring Iran to the negotiation table. And contrary to the Trump administration’s beliefs, sanctions should not be used on Iran because they have not worked in the past and will not work in the future.

Sanctions Did Not Bring Iran to the Negotiating Table

Source: EWN

Iran and the US came to a nuclear agreement during the Obama administration. Although the The main thing that led to the US and Iran coming to a nuclear peace agreement was the US' change in position. In fact, Iran’s perception that the US’ negotiation position changed contributed to bringing Iran to the negotiation table. For many years, Iran was willing to agree to a peaceful nuclear program. For example, in 2003 and 2005 Iran made proposals to limit their own nuclear operations and allow the implementation of transparency measures that would ensure that the country was using nuclear technology only for peaceful purposes. It’s also important to note that Iran made these proposals long before sanctions were placed on the country.

While Iran maintained their position on the use of nuclear weapons, the US and its allies changed their own position. First the US suggested that Iran could not be allowed to enrich uranium. That position then changed to Iran cannot have nuclear weapons or a nuclear weapons program. In addition to the US’ own position changing, Iran itself went through a power shift that led to the then moderate Hassan Rouhani taking political office. Rouhani was previously Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005 and as president successfully influenced negotiations by appointing cooperative diplomats. From the US’ change in position, Iran’s political changes, and the fact that Iran’s negotiating position did not change, it can be seen that economic sanctions did not bring Iran to the negotiating table.

Economic Sanctions Have Unintended Effects and Costs

It’s widely documented that economic sanctions often harm the poor in a country more than the political elite. While the humanitarian effects of sanctions can be very serious there is another problem that economic sanctions can cause that is often overlooked. When economic sanctions are used the sender country intends for the economic sanctions to cause serious economic problems for the target country and while economic sanctions may cause problems for the target country, in a weird twisted way economic sanctions can benefit the target country. The way they could benefit a target country is by making the country more self-sufficient.

Nearly every country in the world relies on trade. Even the most isolated country in the world, North Korea, conducts trade with China and other countries. Economic sanctions have such a hard bite because they cut off these trade relationships, but when these trade relationships are cut off the countries targeted by sanctions must then find ways to fill these gaps in their economy by increasing domestic production. In effect, the targeted country then becomes more self-sufficient by developing sectors in their domestic economy to replace trade relationships that were cut off. This manifested in Iran by the government spending a lot of resources on developing domestic sources of weaponry. It’s also important to note that economic sanctions on Iran have led to other unintended effects, such as increasing Iranian conservatism and empowering radical factions.

What We Should Do Instead

Economic sanctions are obviously not the answer to bringing Iran to the negotiation table. However, the Trump administration insists on using sanctions. On August 7, 2018, President Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran, leading to several companies halting business activities with Iran. Instead of imposing sanctions on Iran, the US needs to renegotiate a nuclear peace deal with Iran. The US should have never pulled out of the nuclear pact with Iran in the first place. By pulling out of the nuclear pact President Trump created a dangerous situation where the US is unable to oversee Iran’s use of nuclear material.

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