Iranian sanctions ‘hit the weak’, says National Iranian-American Council President

World Finance examines whether sanctions placed on Iran will have a positive effect internationally and domestically

November 6, 2014

In part two of our series on Iran, we talk to President of the National Iranian-American Council, Trita Parsi, about whether sanctions posed on Iran to hinder the government’s nuclear programme will have a progressive or damaging effect.

World Finance: Are the Iranian sanctions as debilitating as we saw in Cuba for example?
Trita Parsi:
In many ways no. First of all, the sanctions that have been quite debilitating have only been imposed on the country for the last couple of years, and already you are starting to see that that initial sting has started to wane off a bit, which is really typical. Sanctions tend to very harsh in the beginning, and then after a while, workarounds are found and other ways to pursue trade are found. But in the case of Cuba it’s a bit different, because the Cubans never really had a strong economy to begin with, they didn’t have natural resources and other things that the outside world was in dire need of, whereas the Iranians sit on a tremendous amount of oil as well as gas, which the world is in dire need of, and as a result they’re in a much stronger negotiating position.

I’m personally very unfavourable towards the idea of sanctions, mainly because it tends to hit the weak

World Finance: How do you feel about sanctions on a country?
Trita Parsi: I’m personally very unfavourable towards the idea of sanctions, mainly because it tends to hit the weak and those in society that actually have very little to do with the decision making of whatever policy it is that the sanctioning countries are trying to change. It is, in essence, collective punishment, particularly when it comes to countries such as Iran that are not true democracies, where the people have very limited ability to impact a policy. Moreover, there’s not a lot of evidence for sanctions truly working, meaning not that they impose pain, that they can do, but that they can translate the pain into a shift in policy, and a desired shift in policy. There’s very little evidence for that. The last point I would say about it, some of my hesitations about sanctions is that, the way sanctions tend to work in really hurting the middle class, is a very negative development when it comes to the prospects of democratisation. By harming the middle class in developing countries, we’re also harming their ability to move towards democracy.