Weighing Benefits and Costs of International Sanctions Against Iran

The Iran Project, a group of leading national security experts and former officials, and a grantee of Ploughshares Fund, has published a new report about the costs and benefits of international sanctions against Iran. The report, endorsed by 38 leading national security figures, springs from the observation that “the costs of sanctions themselves are not routinely addressed in the public or policymaking debate.”

Among the advantages of sanctions described in the report are the slowing of the rate of expansion of Iran’s nuclear program, the weakening of Iran’s regional influence, and the creation of discontent and internal division within Iran. The costs the authors cite include the creation of disputes among U.S. allies, the erosion of governance capacity and institutional transparency in Iran, and long-term stigmatization between the U.S. and Iran that could result in an increased potential for conflict and regional violence.

The authors provide a clear view of how sanctions must be utilized in the service of a successful diplomatic program to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

In a December 6th panel discussion at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to launch the report, Lt. General Gregory Newbold, William Reinsch, and George Perkovich discussed the role that multilateral sanctions play in advancing U.S. policy towards Iran.

Perkovich, Director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment, focused on the importance of creating confidence about Iran’s nuclear program within the international nonproliferation framework. He also suggested that negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran would provide an opportunity to close loopholes in the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Lt. General Newbold, who served in the United States Marine Corps for over 30 years, examined the effectiveness of sanctions on the Iranian military. He described how the military effectiveness of Iran has been curtailed due to the sanctions program, yet how Iran’s asymmetric military capabilities still remain strong – building on findings in their previous report that looked at the possibility of military action against Iran.

And William Reinsch, Vice Chairman of the U.S.-China Economic Security Review Commission and President of the National Foreign Trade Council, spoke about the economic impact of the sanctions on both Iranians and Americans. He described how sanctions can inhibit the ability of organizations and businesses to provide humanitarian and agricultural goods – which are permissible under U.S. law – to Iran, as well as how sanctions often create unintended consequences that harm American business.

Among the Iran Project’s notable core members are Stephen Heintz, William Luers, William Miller, Thomas Pickering, Jim Walsh, and Frank Wisner.

For more information about The Iran Project, visit: theiranproject.org