Sanctions on Iran : A Political Message

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Recently an increasing number of news articles have been focusing around the evolving stance of the US against Iran. With American sanctions already in place, the US is now increasingly seeking international backing against what she considers a growing threat. But what success are existing US sanctions on Iran having, and what impacts are additional internationally backed sanctions intended to have? The Shelf Investigates.

The sanctions imposed by the US on Iran are in response to the increasingly “threatening behaviour of the Iranians” in regard to a growing nuclear weapons programme. In October this year the US imposed further sanctions to include the IRGC (Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps), a group that is estimated to control around a third of the Iranian economy. By imposing sanctions on the IRGC America hopes to have significant enough impact on the countries economy in the hope of bringing Iran back into line.

As well as concerns over a growing nuclear program the US has raised concerns over Iranian influence in Iraq and Afghanistan, blaming the IRGC directly for training insurgents with the intentions of destabilising these countries and undermining American developments.

Economic sanctions on the Iranians by the Americans are not a new development, a variety of which have been in place since 1979. It was in 2003 however that the US took existing sanctions a step further by reporting Iran to the UN Security Council, subsequently seeking the backing of the international community.

To understand the intended impacts of sanctions we must first look at what different sanctions involve. In a world where dialogue is becoming increasing important in disputes sanctions have become a weapon in themselves, albeit on an economic scale. For the US particularly sanctions have become an important means in dealing with international disputes with nations she deems as rouge states. There are two different sanctions that are used to send varying political messages to opponents, trade sanctions and economic sanctions.

Trade sanctions are intended to eliminate basic privileges that the US grants to preferred trading partners. Trade sanctions are applied to countries who’s activities include closing off their markets or selling arms to hostile regimes. Such actions have in the past been applied by the US to both China and Pakistan, and are intended to bring a countries behaviour into line without alienating them form the international community.

Economic sanctions are a more drastic step and could be seen as the next course of action if the offending country did not pull into line once trade sanctions had been applied. Economic sanctions have the full intention of alienating the country they are imposed upon, and can include trade embargos, bans on cash transfers from US institutions, and additional measures that prevent access to US assets. Economic sanctions are intended to cripple a countries economy and are deemed a step shy of war.

With the clear intention of alienating Iran and strangling her economy economic sanction were placed on Iran by America. By reporting Iran to the UN American has however signalled that she also realises she needs the backing of the international community for any such action to be successful.

Tomorrow The Shelf will look more closely at the IRGC and the current stance of the international community on economic sanctions against them, as well and possible consequences that could lay ahead if American cannot achieve her goal of getting international backing.


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