Monday, November 19, 2007

Will Sanctions on Iran Work?

Professor emeritus of government and foreign affairs at the University of Virginia Ruhi Ramazani published a new opinion editorial yesterday entitled "Sanctions on Iran: Will They Work?" It is one of the few articles in the media that addresses why, in fact, U.S. unilateral sanctions are likely to fail.

The Bush administration is couching unilateral sanctions as part of the its diplomatic efforts. Because of the intensified rhetoric against Iran emanating from the administration, sanctions are more palatable to Congress and the public when they are faced with the false choice of war or capitulation. To make matters more complicated, unfortunately, many foreign policy heavy weights are lining up behind the sanctions option because they do not understand Iranian behavior and they believe this is somehow the best approach. Professor Ramazani argues that while much of U.S. policy has focused on economic considerations, it has failed to take into account the psychological and political factors inside Iran, factors that are far more important.

Ramazani writes: "Historically, Iranian national sentiment soars in the face of foreign pressure. Like the leaders of the past, the current regime can benefit internally from resisting coercion by foreign powers such as the United States." He then succinctly articulates the history of interventions in Iran's political structure from the 19th century to present that have contributed to the "profound Iranian cultural, psychological and political realities" of today that make "America's newly expanded unilateral sanctions likely to fail, as have all previous sanctions since the United States broke diplomatic relations with Iran in 1980."

Ramazani concludes:
"Diplomacy, rather than pressure or military action, remains the most realistic option. American and Iranian ambassadors in Baghdad will soon renew discussions on Iraqi security. Yet to resolve the nuclear standoff between the US and Iran, unconditional and direct negotiations at higher levels are essential to avoid a military collision."

[Special thanks to Scott Harrop for sending along the article.]

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