Monday, April 18, 2011

Guess What: Sanctions on Iran Achieve (Almost) Nothing

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This article was published in the Jerusalem Post. However, I own all rights so please link and give credit to this site if reprinting or forwarding.

By Barry Rubin

It's becoming an open secret--though not open enough--that the U.S.-led, UN-approved sanctions on Iran are having no serious strategic effect and only a limited economic effect on the country.

The reasons are clear:

1. To get the sanctions through the UN, the U.S. government basically told Russia, China, and Turkey that it would ignore their violations.

2. Iran has shifted its trade patterns eastward and southward generally, to Asia and the Middle East, including a very successful smuggling effort through the Gulf Arab states.

3. The price of oil has zoomed upward, in no small part due to mistaken U.S. foreign and energy policies, putting more money into the pocket of the Iranian regime.

And, of course, regional developments and U.S. policies--including coddling Syria, distancing itself from Israel, urging the total downfall of a relatively moderate Arab regime--also make the Iranian leaders feel that they are winning and thus should stay the course.

This is not to say that Iran's economy is doing well. Due to mismanagement and other factors, prices are steadily climbing and breeding discontent. But this has little to do with the sanctions and is hardy enough to get a determined, one might even say ideological fanatical, government to change its course.

Sanctions have become the soothing pill for the West in beieving it is doing something about Iran rather than confront its growing influence contrasted with Western confusion and weakness.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government persists in seeing the current Turkish regime as an ally despite far more evidence that it is an ally…of Iran. In the midst of a sanctions’ regime, Iran-Turkey trade has increased by almost 44 percent over last year. In the month of February alone, the trade volume was almost $1.5 billion. Last year it was $10 billion. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the two countries are about to sign a preferential trade agreement that he believes will triple trade.

Yet the U.S. government has not criticized the Turkish regime despite such developments as its opposition to sanctions, its violation of sanctions, and even announcement that the Turkish army will now train the Syrian army. If this government is reelected on June 11, it will be a major defeat for Western interests, whether or not anyone notices.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist for PajamasMedia at His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at His PajamaMedia columns are mirrored and his other articles are available at

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