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Will sanctions work on Iran? Six different takes

January 30, 2012 |  1:23 pm


The United States and its allies are stepping up sanctions against Iran, punishing ordinary Iranians as well as top officials. As Paul Richter and Ramin Mostaghim reported Sunday, it’s a risky strategy that could backfire by stirring up anger against the West. Even before the new sanctions were imposed, fears of the new restrictions helped spur runs on Iranian banks and drove up prices for imports and basic commodities.

Do economic sanctions work? It’s a question that has come up over and over as the U.S. seeks to steer countries to change their ways. Here are some interesting takes on that question:

-- Planet Money has an engaging podcast with economist Gary Hufbauer, who argues that sanctions usually don't work. It also gives a glimpse of what it was like living in Iraq under sanctions in the 1990s.

-- Sanctions can work, but they won't work in Iran, Amir Taheri argues in Al Arabiya News.

-- Sanctions may not have a great probability of working, but the alternatives may not be any better, Joseph Nye wrote in the Financial Times.

-- "Do sanctions work?" is the wrong question, argues University of Buffalo political scientist Phil Arena. Just threatening sanctions sometimes does the trick, Arena says.

-- It depends on your definition of "work," Daniel Drezner writes in Foreign Policy magazine.

-- The nonprofit Foreign Policy Assn. brought in two views on sanctions a year ago:


Sanctions begin taking a bigger toll on Iran

Graphics: Sanctions taking their toll on Iran's economy

U.S., Europe choose risky strategy with sanctions on Iran

-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: An Iranian goldsmith counts his gold coins at a market in Tehran's old main bazaar. Iranians, worried about the potential impact of the latest sanctions, in recent months appeared focused on buying up dollars and gold coins instead of depositing money in the banks. Credit: Vahid Salemi / Associated Press