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.
More from CNAS
CommentaryTrump’s Use of Sanctions Is Nothing Like Obama’s
Two and a half years into Donald Trump’s presidency, there is no doubt that economic sanctions are his administration’s foreign-policy weapon of choice. From China to Iran to ...
By Peter Harrell
CommentaryGreat-Power Competition Is Washington’s Top Priority—But Not the Public’s
For all the acrimony in Washington today, the city’s foreign policy establishment is settling on a rare bipartisan consensus: that the world has entered a new era of great-pow...
By Richard Fontaine
PodcastIran Under Sanctions: A Scramble For Cancer Care And Blame To Go Around
At a cancer treatment center in Iran's capital of Tehran, a doctor's fight to treat her cancer patients has become harder. As U.S. sanctions sink in, the flow of medicine and ...
By Elizabeth Rosenberg
CommentaryCongress Is Gearing Up for a Bigger Fight With Trump Over Russia Policy
After a long delay, the Trump administration finally took the first steps in a legally mandated effort to punish Russia for its use of chemical weapons in the 2018 poisoning o...
By Neil Bhatiya