The Limited Utility Of The Iran Sanctions

November 4, 2019

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear
  • Missile
  • Military


Kenneth Katzman


Arab Center Washington DC

The objective of any sanctions regime is not to punish the target country or weaken its economy as an end in itself. Rather, a sanctions campaign—including the Trump Administration’s policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran—is meant to change the target country’s behavior. Such a result could come from a reduction in its capabilities to implement actions the United States finds objectionable or from a negotiated agreement under which a country limits or ends its offending activities.

A wide range of observations and data support the assertion that the Trump Administration’s maximum pressure campaign against Iran has not, to date, produced any tangible strategic gains for US policy. However, Tehran’s reported willingness to negotiate at least some changes beyond those stipulated in the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA) could yet produce an outcome that the administration could plausibly claim as a policy “success”—even if far more modest than the one it had forecast. At the same time, US policy has increased the risk of a direct US-Iran armed conflict, the dimensions and adverse consequences of which are potentially widespread and severe.


Read the full report at the Arab Center Washington DC.