We’ve been here many times before, but the result has never changed. Iran’s
diplomatic intransigence is met with the threat and eventual passing of economic
Each time, the hope is that Iran will be convinced to enter
into serious negotiations.
This “dual-track” approach has yet to still
Iran’s march toward nuclear weapons capability – yet we pursue this course in
the absence of better options.
The sanctions tool has been weakened by
the lack of consensus in the international community, thus limiting the pressure
levelled on Iran.
Tired of the consensus obstacle, the European Union
took a significant step on Monday by approving its own set of “comprehensive and
robust” sanctions, incorporating – and substantially exceeding – those passed by
the United Nations Security Council in June. The measures are indeed the
strongest sanctions implemented by the EU and fill important gaps left by the
UNSC resolution – particularly through the targeting of Iran’s energy sector.
But are they enough to convince Iran to alter its behavior? If one believes that
sanctions will thwart Iran’s nuclear course on their own, the outcome is likely
to be disappointing. No set of sanctions, short of a universally enforced
embargo, is likely to bring Iran’s program to an immediate stop – and the
international consensus for such a forceful move does not exist, nor cannot it
be expected in the near future.
However, if the point is to ratchet up
the pressure to get Iran to return to negotiations – this time in good faith –
then the prospects for success are greater.
The EU’s new sanctions will
have an effect on the Iranian economy, and thus on the country’s leadership. By
targeting Iran’s economic central core, its energy industry, EU sanctions will
restrict the revenue stream that is funding the Iranian nuclear
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The prohibition against EU companies investing in new energy
projects will hinder growth, and the ban against the sale of dualuse
technologies will complicate the general maintenance of the sector.
true that companies from other countries, notably from Russia and China, will
fill the void. But securing replacement contractors will also come at a cost to
Iran. Recognizing the decreasing number of firms willing to invest in Iran,
Chinese companies have been known to demand more profitable rates of return. In
other cases, Iran has been forced to accept inferior services and products from
FURTHERMORE, THE blacklisting of individuals and
entities in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps will help restrict the very
body in charge of Iran’s nuclear development.
To sufficiently pressure
them, a more comprehensive list will be needed; allied nations
next steps in the effort to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions will
turn their attention to filling out such a list in the weeks
Neither the energy-sector restrictions nor IRGC blacklisting is
likely to be crippling, but they will create strains on an already
economy and pose challenges to a regime already at pains to respond to
fundamental public needs.
Absent cooperation from companies in the EU, a
number of vital industries in the Iranian economy will be unable to
necessary technical investments. Iran, in turn, will be hard-pressed to
the energy-sector output to fulfil its revenue obligations in the annual
– always a touchy political issue.
Iran has, to this point, felt
confident in its ability to withstand the fiscal effects of sanctions
pursues its nuclear objective. Quite simply, Teheran has calculated that
would reach its goal of weapons capability before the international
can increase the economic pressure to the point that it would be
It has been buoyed by the reluctance of key international
actors – notably Russia and China, and increasingly Turkey – to go along
further UNSC sanctions, to enforce them, and to go beyond them.
latest news from Brussels, however, seems to have seized Iran’s
Within hours of the sanctions’ approval by the EU Foreign
Affairs Council, Iran reportedly offered to restart negotiations
fuel swap “without conditions.”
It will be wise for the EU, with its
American and other international partners, to regard such a proposal
skepticism, in light of the long record of delays and broken promises
defined Teheran’s approach to the international community on matters
its nuclear program. In the past, Iran has consistently used
negotiations as a
stalling tactic to allow its nuclear development to proceed apace.
EU wants to be sure Iran will act in good faith, it must continue to
international consensus and deliver a clear message to Tehran: should a
productive dialogue not ensue, further action will immediately be
The EU has shown its intent to punish Iran for its intransigence.
Now it must also prove its resolve.
Indeed, the work has just
The writer is the program director of the AJC Transatlantic
Institute in Brussels.
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