Now repeat after me: Sanctions…do…not…work. I coulda told Obama that before he waded neck deep into the Big Muddy on that one…in fact, I did. A new Gallup poll of Iranians presents what the Washington Post euphemistically calls “worrying” signs that the western sanctions are having precisely the opposite effect that Obama expected. They’re driving rank and file Iranians into the arms of the regime and causing them to blame not their leaders, but the west.
Gallup asked, “Given the scale of the sanctions against Iran, do you think Iran should continue to develop its nuclear power capabilities, or not?” Almost two-thirds of respondents, 63 percent, said yes. Only 17 percent said no…
The poll also found that Iranians are almost five times as likely to blame the United States for sanctions as they are to blame their own government. Even fewer blame Europe or the United Nations, though both are instrumental in the crippling economic sanctions. Pollsters asked, “Which of the following groups do you hold most responsible for sanctions against Iran?” Out of the seven choices, the most popular by far was the United States, with 47 percent. Only 10 percent blamed the Iranian government; 9 percent said Israel…
In recent days, even the NY Times, an ardent supporter of sanctions, published a report from Iran that sanctions were having no appreciable effect on street life in Teheran. Restaurants were full, new businesses springing up. Somehow and against all odds, Iranians were adapting. That doesn’t mean that life is not hard for them. But it does mean that they have figured out ways to adjust, ways to blunt the impact of sanctions.
This is precisely what Iran analysts told policymakers would happen. Three years ago at a conference I organized here in Seattle Keith Weissman and Muhammad Sahimi reviewed the history of two decades of U.S. sanctions efforts against Iran. Their united appraisal was that they don’t work. Yes, you may say, but Obama told us his sanctions were new, more drastic, harder for Iran to wiggle out of. His sanctions were going to work where others before had merely been slaps on the wrist. They haven’t changed very much.
Undoubtedly, the Obama round of sanctions has put the screws to Iran in ways previous ones hadn’t. But they have not inflicted a body blow on Iran or the regime. That’s because they can’t. That’s because there’s only one way that will work–and it ain’t sanctions. It’s negotiations.
For years now Israel has been whistling a tune and Obama’s been joining in harmony: sanctions will break down Iranian resistance. They will cause internal unrest. People will rise up against the mullahs. No sane person would choose a nuclear bomb over bread. Despite a poorly managed economy, Iranians as a whole have bested Israel and Obama. They’ve proven more resilient and tougher than any western policymaker thought possible. It’s about time to re-evaluate. Containment, not sanctions is what will work. Negotiations, not war. The west will have to give up sanctions and offer normalization in return for Iran giving substantial concessions on its nuclear program. Anything short of this is a pipe dream.