Do sanctions against Iran matter?

Daniel Pipes argues that the debate over sanctions against Iran, and thus over the P5+1 negotiations, is “peripheral and even diversionary.” He reasons that “the apocalyptically minded Iranian leadership will do everything it can to acquire the Bomb,” and therefore “economic sanctions only serve to slow its course, not to stop” the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

For Pipes, all that really matters is whether some government will use force to reverse the nuclear program. Israel, says Pipes, is the only government that possibly posseses both the means and the will to attack Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Accordingly, the big question is whether Israel will attack. Pipes doesn’t hazard a guess.

I agree that sanctions can’t stop the mullahs from obtaining nuclear weapons. But this doesn’t mean they are irrelevant. We have seen that sanctions can weaken Iran’s economy to the point that the mullahs, as a matter of regime preservation, will try to negotiate their way out of a tough sanctions regime.

The mullahs’ opinion of sanctions is good enough for me. If they believe, as they seem to, that tough sanctions threaten their hold on power, that’s reason enough to end negotiations and try to reimpose the pre-existing sanctions regime.

President Obama, however, has no intention of doing so. So far as I can tell, regime change in Iran has never been his goal.

In this sense Pipes is right — at this time, the debate over sanctions and the P5+1 talks is largely academic.

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