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By Pushing for More Sanctions, US Hardliners Play Into Hands of Iranian Hardliners

Foreign Policy in Focus

“Buoyed by the failure of the US and five other powers to reach a comprehensive agreement with Iran over its nuclear program,” writes Jim Lobe for Inter Press Service, “pro-Israel and Republican hawks are calling for Washington to ramp up economic pressure on Tehran even while talks continue, and to give Congress a veto on any final accord.” But, he continues,

Most Iran specialists here believe that any new sanctions legislation will likely sabotage the talks, fracture the P5+1, and thus undermine the international sanctions regime against Iran, strengthen hard-liners in Tehran who oppose accommodation and favour accelerating the nuclear programme.

In the Wall Street Journal, Kareem Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace writes that not only would more U.S. sanctions

… threaten the unity among Washington’s negotiating partners (the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany). They also risk tainting U.S. standing among the Iranian people and precipitating an escalation that could result in military conflict.

Why? Because

Iranian calculations are driven in part by the view that President Barack Obama is averse to conflict and that Washington, not Tehran, would be blamed for abrogating the joint agreement reached last November.

Therefore

Additional U.S. sanctions are less likely to produce greater concessions than they are to encourage Tehran to recommence its nuclear activities and curtail its already limited [sic] cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Association.

Furthermore, while

… the global embargo on Iran’s economy has remained largely intact. … it’s unclear whether the European Union, Russia, and Asia would continue to forsake commercial and strategic ties with Iran to placate the U.S. in the event of a diplomatic breakdown.

In fact

Today, China, Russia, and even many European allies believe that Iran is too critical to regional stability to be shunned and that President Hasan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are reasonable leaders who should be engaged and strengthened, not sanctioned and weakened.

“The worst scenario for U.S. interests,” Sadjadpour writes, “is one in which Congress overwhelmingly passes new sanctions, Iran resumes its nuclear activities, and international unity unravels. Such an outcome would force the United States to revisit the possibility of another military conflict in the Middle East.”

More U.S. sanctions would not only discourage the cooperation of Iran, but that of China, Russia, and Europe. In other words, it’s a self-defeating ploy designed to play to the domestic political cheap seats (not to mention the luxury suites).

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