January 10, 2018

Breaking the Iran Deal and Imposing New Sanctions Would Hurt Iranian Protesters Most

By ​Neil Bhatiya and Edoardo Saravalle

The popular demonstrations that erupted in Iran in late December, the largest since the Green Movement protests in 2009, have created a pretext for the Trump administration to renege on the nuclear deal, which it has tried to nix throughout its first year in office. But breaking the 2015 agreement by piling on sanctions pressure would likely have only a minor economic effect on Tehran, especially in the short term, while undermining the very protesters the administration has vocally supported. The threat of new U.S. sanctions would also limit American leverage in pursuing regional stability and nonproliferation.

Media coverage has documented the protesters’ anger with Iran’s economic circumstances. The country needs an estimated $100 billion of annual infrastructure investment to rebuild its battered economy and boasts an unemployment rate of around 12.5 percent. Some demonstrations, in targeting sluggish growth and corruption, have also zeroed in on Iran’s spending abroad in pursuit of its geopolitical aims. Iranians are right to be angry about the government devoting resources to militant groups and terrorist proxies in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen when work is needed at home.

Read the full commentary in World Politics Review.

  • Podcast
    • August 2, 2022
    The Cost of Economic War

    Sanctions, not bombs, have been the weapon chosen to take on the Putin regime. BBC speaks with macroeconomist Rachel Ziemba about the effectiveness of modern economic statecra...

    By Rachel Ziemba

  • Podcast
    • March 15, 2022
    What would happen if Russia defaults on its debt?

    Adjunct senior fellow Elina Ribakova speaks to Marketplace about how Russia's economic isolationism may largely insulate global markets should Russia default on its debts. Li...

    By Elina Ribakova

  • Podcast
    • March 3, 2022
    Sanctions and Export Controls Explained: What's going on with Russia

    The United States and its allies have released an unprecedented and sweeping set of sanctions and export controls in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. This includes bl...

    By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Richard Fontaine, Edward Fishman, Elina Ribakova & Emily Kilcrease

  • Reports
    • January 14, 2021
    Sanctions by the Numbers: 2020 Year in Review

    Sanctions designations remained high in 2020, with 777 designations compared to 785 in 2019....

    By Sam Dorshimer & ​Francis Shin

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia