The United States has attempted one of the most revolutionary diplomatic methods to deal with Iran’s nuclear program: economic sanctions. As of late, it appears that sanctions are the one-size-fits-all solution to tackling Washington’s foreign policy woes: sanctions on Syria, sanctions on North Korea, sanctions on Cuba. While sanctions are useful in some cases, strong considerations must precede their imposition. In many nations, sanctions are not an effective diplomatic tool. Prime example: Iran. Economic sanctions on the nation mandated by the United States have proven ineffective and extremely detrimental to the nation, regional stability, and the international community.
A U.S. law passed on December 31, 2011 required key importers of Iranian oil to follow suit with Washington in eliminating or drastically reducing their Iranian oil imports. Refusal to cooperate with this statute by June 28, 2012 would result in economic isolation from the U.S. and, likely, its allies. The moment of truth on June 28 passed in relative calm as each of the twenty key importers of Iranian oil passed Washington’s arbitrary threshold for oil independence from Iran.
Firstly, Ahmadinejad’s illegitimate regime renders sanctions ineffective. By their very nature, sanctions aim to debilitate the economy and a nation’s citizens. In this way, they attempt to pressure leaders into acquiescing demands from the international community. However, what the United States seems to have overlooked is that Ahmadinejad appears to value his power over his citizens’ quality of life, an assertion evidenced by his saber rattling in the wake of mounting Western pressure thus far. Considering that sanctions are ineffective, it is impossible to justify the threats to regional stability and the global economy stemming from them.
Sanctions on Iran are damaging, and will continue to damage, regional stability and the economic interests of the international community. Currently, Iran is responding to sanctions by arming its ships in the Strait of Hormuz with missiles. This is not the first time that Iran has attempted to block the Strait of Hormuz; Iran attempted to blockade or display its potential to block the Strait in 2002 and December 2011 as a result of mounting international pressure regarding its nuclear program. If sanctions continue, Iran would likely launch a definitive blockade on the Strait of Hormuz, the vital passageway for 40% of the world’s oil shipments. Such a move would, without a doubt, crush the already unstable global economy.
Clearly, Washington’s imposition of sanctions on Iran is a careless attempt to extrapolate a tool from its diplomatic arsenal that worked well in select cases to the broad majority of cases. In fact, international sanctions are not just ineffective, but also threatening to American regional allies and the economic interests of the world at large. Considering that diplomacy with Tehran has failed, the only option available to the United States and its allies seems to be military intervention in Iran. It would be a shame if Washington had to resort to war to solve Iran’s nuclear issue. Then again, the greater shame would be the potential outcome of Iran’s nuclear armament undeterred by the West.