Sanctions aren’t known to produce the results they are meant for. They only help to harden the resolve of those who are targeted, while those who impose them derive satisfaction from the fact that they have acted to coerce the so-called renegade states to fall in line. The Western sanctions against Iran to force the country to step back from its nuclear programme too fall in this category.
The US imposed sanctions on Iran on Friday by putting curbs on more than 25 businesses, banks and individuals it suspected of working to expand Iran’s nuclear programme, support terrorism and help Iran evade existing sanctions. The action comes at a time when talks between the two sides are making some progress, though scant and inconsistent. Iran has reacted furiously to the move. Its foreign ministry spokesman Marzieh Afkham said the new sanctions would only jeopardise a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and would have a “negative and non-constructive impact” on the talks. President Hassan Rouhani also attacked the move, saying “we should resist the invasion and put the invaders in their place. We should not allow the continuation and repetition of the invasion.”
According to reports, Friday’s action did not constitute an expansion of the sanctions regime, but rather the enforcement of existing sanctions. It’s a move by Washington to pile pressure on Tehran to move faster on talks and make concessions to arrive at a nuclear deal. Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers – the US, Britain, France, China and Russia, plus Germany – hope to reach a comprehensive nuclear agreement by November that would address western concerns about the nuclear programme and lift crippling sanctions on Tehran.
Iran has the right to feel infuriated by the new move, but any decision to go slow on talks or hold back on reaching a deal will be counter-productive. An end to the current stalemate is in the interest of all parties, especially Iran. Sanctions have brought misery to the lives of ordinary Iranians and crippled the country’s economy. President Rouhani came to power on a promise of reforms and better living conditions for his people and this promise is impossible to be fulfilled without the lifting of the sanctions.
Iran must refrain from any kind of nuclear activity that will add to tension in the region. Though Gulf countries are not participating in the current talks, they have serious concerns about the intentions of their neighbour. The current talks have created some confidence that Tehran could abandon its nuclear programme.
Iran and US need to continue their talks with sincerity and an intention to arrive at a deal. A failure of talks or serious slowing down will only help erase the progress made so far•