Iran sanctionsAfter Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced at an anniversary ceremony to mark the Islamic Revolution (February 11) that he would unveil “major nuclear accomplishments”, the United States and the European Union are left hoping that tough new oil sanctions will curb Tehran’s ambitions.

The state-run Press TV announced 55-year-old Ahmadinejad’s intention to reveal the country’s nuclear program.

While the U.S. and EU believe that oil sanctions from the West will cut off Iran’s oil exports and deter the country from moving forward with its nuclear plans, it is critical to remember that the West’s sanctions are not binding to other countries. India, the largest purchaser of Iranian oil, and China - which is in the process of negotiating new contracts with Iran - will continue to buy oil and effectively keep the country open for business.

“To be truly effective, in this case, sanctions would have to be applied universally and internationally,” Dina Esfandiary, research analyst and sanctions specialist at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies, told Reuters. “That won't happen. They will have some effect, but it will be diluted.”

Meanwhile, Professor Daniel Drezner wrote in Foreign Policy last week that the “sanctions policy is pushing the United States into a policy cul-de-sac where the only way out is through regime change."

But Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a private, non-profit membership organization dedicated to public education and support of effective arms control measures, said in a Q&A on lobelog, a blog of the IPS News Agency, that “the Obama administration is not seeking regime change, but is seeking to bring increasing international pressure on Iran in order to increase the cost of pursuing actions that could bring it closer to being able to build nuclear weapons and to encourage it to return to the negotiating table. The primary goal of U.S. policy appears to me to be to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.”

Kimball says the UN Security Council’s sanctions seem to be slowing Iran’s nuclear progress and are justified, but the sanctions now being put in place by the United States and the EU “run the risk of hurting the Iranian people and reinforcing Iran’s leaders’ determination to reject overtures and demands to restrain their nuclear program and to negotiate because the sanctions appear to them to be an attempt to destabilize the country and the regime.”

EU foreign ministers agreed last month to block Iranian oil imports beginning July 1 and to freeze Iran central bank’s assets. Earlier this month, President Obama ordered a block on property and interests in property belonging to the Iranian government, its central bank and all Iranian financial institutions.

Experts have said that a military strike option is still on the table.

On February 10, Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi said threats of a military strike against the country are “empty” and that Iran has already made preparations for the “worst scenario”, Tehran Times reported. If the U.S. wanted to act against Iran, it would have already done so, Salehi said, according to Mehr.

(Photo © Keith Binns/iStock)