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“Trump’s Termination of the Iran Deal is a Risky Bet”…Sanctions Aren’t Easy.

“Trump’s Termination of the Iran Deal is a Risky Bet”…Sanctions Aren’t Easy.


On May 8th, 2018, the U.S. pulled out of the Iran Nuclear Deal. The Trump administration claims the deal is unfair and leaves plenty of opportunities for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon–a claim all other parties to the deal disagree with.

In the News:

“For President Trump and two of the allies he values most — Israel and Saudi Arabia — the problem of the Iranian nuclear accord was not, primarily, about nuclear weapons. It was that the deal legitimized and normalized Iran’s clerical government, reopening it to the world economy with oil revenue that financed its adventures in Syria and Iraq, its missile program and its support of terrorist groups. Now, by announcing on Tuesday that he is exiting the nuclear deal and will reimpose economic sanctions on Iran and companies around the world that do business with the country, Mr. Trump is engaged in a grand, highly risky experiment”.

“Mr. Trump and his Middle East allies are betting they can cut Iran’s economic lifeline and thus “break the regime,” as one senior European official described the effort. In theory, America’s withdrawal could free Iran to produce as much nuclear material as it wants — as it was doing five years ago, when the world feared that it was headed toward a bomb. But Mr. Trump’s team dismisses that risk: Iran does not have the economic strength to confront the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia. And Iran knows that any move to produce a weapon would only provide Israel and the United States with a rationale for taking military action”.

Support from Peace Science:

  • Moderate sanctions lower the chance of war, but weak or overly destructive sanctions can increase the chance of war.
  • Sanctions can lead countries to diplomatic negotiations, which in turn contribute to future cooperation.
  • Sanctioning governments convey strength and solidarity through shared condemnation.

Sanctions are a diplomatic tool that provide governments with a nonviolent method to reduce another country’s military power. The parties involved in conducting and receiving sanctions, as well as those observing the sanction campaign from the outside, benefit from an effective nonviolent method to address conflict. With time, these methods can bring the conflicting parties to the negotiating table. As David Cortright states, “[sanctions] are useful for persuading an adversary to come to the bargaining table, but they must be accompanied by meaningful incentives for cooperation”. Once a successful process of cooperation has begun, it is more likely that agreements and further cooperation can be achieved.

It is important to observe the success of a sanction regime through a wide lens, and not just by the immediately observable results. Just because a country or group of countries failed to meet all of the objectives set before sanctioning does not mean that the sanctions failed. Rather, success should be weighed against the sanctions’ ability to balance power and the human and economic costs from a war that the sanctions may have helped prevent – not the potential hardships that come during a sanction regime.

“Sanctions are means of applying pressure, but their effectiveness depends on offering to lift sanctions as an incentive for reaching a negotiated settlement”. (David Cortright, Peace Scientist)


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