Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sanctions on Iran

My friend Djavad Salehi-Isfahani thinks about sanctions on Iran over at Brookings. I am always impressed at how Djavad's knowledge of Iranian internal politics enriches and changes my views about policy toward Iran.

More generally, US policy discussions often proceed as if the citizens of other countries frame international issues in the same way that we do and as if their domestic politics are irrelevant to their interactions with the US. Neither of these views is correct, for Iran or for any other country.

Have sanctions ever worked? Certainly not on Cuba. Not on Iran to date. Not on Iraq either before the first Gulf war or between the two Gulf wars. Not on North Korea. There is a literature on this in international relations but I am guessing that I know the answer from casual empiricism, which is that sanctions are really all about domestic audiences, and not about changing behavior.

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