Obama administration officials point to the impact that previously existing sanctions have had on Iran – including a significant drop in oil exports, which cost the country more than $30 billion in revenue last year alone – and they insist that these new sanctions can mean only more hardship.
“Sanctions are having a major adverse impact on Iran’s economy, and things will go from bad to worse unless Iran gets serious about addressing international concerns about its nuclear program,” says a senior administration official, who joined several other administration officials in discussing the impact of sanctions on Iran on condition of anonymity.
Yet while Iran and sanctions experts agree that the West’s measures are having a deep economic impact in Iran – something even Iran’s leaders are increasingly willing to acknowledge – they are less certain that this will lead to concessions at the negotiating table.
“What the West has decided here is that the punitive track is the only way to get the Iranians to respond,” says George Lopez, an expert at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana in the use of economic sanctions. “But I’m not sure that’s a certainty.”
One thing that could get in the way is the US presidential election, Professor Lopez says.
The latest sanctions “are going to make the Iranian economy scream within about three to four months,” he says.
Given that, and the parameters of a potential deal on Iran’s uranium enrichment that have surfaced in recent negotiations, he says there would be reason “in a neutral political environment” to consider at least an interim agreement possible by this fall.