The Making and Unmaking of Iran Sanctions

A new report released by the International Crisis Group this week examines the efficacy and unintended consequences of sanctions on Iran and suggests steps that can be taken during the diplomatic process to unwind them and mitigate their humanitarian consequences while addressing the nuclear issue more effectively. “The Iranian case is a study in the irresistible appeal of sanctions, and of how, over time, means tend to morph into ends”, says Ali Vaez, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Iran. “In the absence of any visible shift in Tehran’s political calculus, it is difficult to measure their impact through any metric other than the quantity and severity of the sanctions themselves”.

I’m still making my way through it, but it’s already clear that this is one of those don’t-miss reports for Iran-watchers and those who are interested in US-Iran relations. I’ve reproduced the recommendations from the executive summary below, beginning with the most important issue related to the sanctions regime — the healthcare crisis in Iran — which Lobe Log contributor Siamak Namazi wrote about today in the New York Times.


To address the healthcare crisis in Iran

To the government of Iran:

1.  Streamline currency allocation, licensing and customs procedures for medical imports.

To the government of the United States and the European Union:

2.  Provide clear guidelines to financial institutions indicating that humanitarian trade is permissible and will not be punished.

3.  Consider allowing an international agency to play the role of intermediary for procuring specialised medicine for Iran.

To sustain nuclear diplomacy and bolster chances of success

To the P5+1 [permanent UN Security Council members and Germany] and the government of Iran:

4.  Agree to hold intensive, continuous, technical-level negotiations to achieve a step-by-step agreement and, to that end, consider establishing a Vienna- or Istanbul-based contact group for regular interaction.

5.  Recognise both Iran’s right in principle to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes on its soil and its obligation to provide strong guarantees that the program will remain peaceful.

To the governments of Iran and the United States:

6.  Conduct bilateral negotiations on the margins of the P5+1 meetings or parallel to them.

To address the immediate issue of 20 per cent uranium enrichment

To the P5+1 and the government of Iran:

7.  Seek agreement on a package pursuant to which:

a) Iran would suspend its uranium enrichment at 20 per cent level for an initial period of 180 days and convert its existing stockpile of 20 per cent enriched uranium to nuclear fuel rods; and

b) P5+1 members would provide Iran with medical isotopes; freeze the imposition of any new sanctions; waive or suspend some existing sanctions for an initial period of 180 days (eg, the ban on the sale of precious and semi-finished metals to Iran or the prohibition on repatriating revenues from Iranian oil sales); and release some of Iran’s frozen assets.
To address the issue of Fordow

To the P5+1 and the government of Iran:

8.  Seek agreement on a package pursuant to which:

a) Iran would refrain from installing more sophisticated Centrifuges at Fordow and implement additional transparency measures, such as using the facility exclusively for research and development purposes and allowing in-house International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resident inspectors or installing live-stream remote camera surveillance; and

b) P5+1 members would suspend sanctions affecting Iran’s petro-chemical sector or permit Iran’s oil customers to maintain existing levels of petroleum imports.

To reach a longer-term agreement

To the P5+1 and the government of Iran:

9.  Seek agreement on a package pursuant to which:

a) Iran would limit the volume of stockpiled 5 per cent enriched uranium, with any amount in excess to be converted into fuel rods; ratify the IAEA’s Additional Protocol and implement Code 3.1; and resolve outstanding issues with the IAEA; and

b) P5+1 members would provide Iran with modern nuclear fuel manufacturing technologies; roll back financial restrictions; and lift sanctions imposed on oil exports; the P5 would submit and sponsor a new UN Security Council resolution removing international sanctions once issues with the IAEA have been resolved.

To rationalise future resort to sanctions on third countries

To the U.S. and European Union:

10.  Consider setting up an independent mechanism to closely assess, monitor and re-evaluate the social and economic consequences of sanctions both before and during implementation to avoid unintended effects, harming the general public or being trapped in a dynamic of escalatory punitive measures.

11.  Avoid where possible imposition of multi-purpose sanctions lacking a single strategic objective and exit strategy.

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.