Solutions to Violent Conflict

If You Think War with Iran Is the Answer, Think Again

In Iran, Nuclear disarmament, Sanctions and Security on October 8, 2015 at 12:21 pm

Mary Ellen O’Connell

Mary Ellen O’Connell is the Robert and Marion Short Professor of Law and Research Professor of International Dispute Resolution at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

Opponents of the Iran nuclear deal have attacked the treaty in part by claiming there are better alternatives. They argue they can get a better treaty by re-imposing tough sanctions, and some even claim that military force could be used instead of a treaty to eliminate the nuclear program. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew made it clear in a New York Times op-ed in August that new sanctions are a non-starter. Other countries are unlikely to join the U.S. in re-imposing sanctions. More sanctions will hurt the U.S. with little chance of persuading Iran.

That leaves military force. Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly explained his vote for the treaty by saying he wanted to try diplomacy before going to war: “With or without this deal, the day may come when we are left with no alternative but to take military action to prevent Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold.”

The Iran Deal: Not Perfect, but the Best Possible

In Iran, Nuclear disarmament, Sanctions and Security on October 8, 2015 at 12:20 pm


Michael C. Desch

Michael C. Desch is Professor of Political Science and Co-director of the Notre Dame International Security Program.

Winston Churchill famously said of democracy that it was the worst form of government except for all the others. The same could be said of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran to contain its nuclear program.

The critics have a point. The JCPOA does not eliminate forever the possibility of Iran developing a nuclear weapon. It does nothing to hinder Iranian support for groups many Americans regard as terrorists—particularly Lebanon’s Hezbollah or various radical Shia groups in Iraq. And it does not break the power of the mullahs and unleash the Iranian masses yearning for freedom.

Success through Sanctions

In Iran, Nuclear disarmament, Sanctions and Security on October 8, 2015 at 12:20 pm

David Cortright

David Cortright is Director of Policy Studies for the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

The Iran nuclear deal resulted in part from the effective use of multilateral sanctions to apply persuasive pressure on Iran to limit its nuclear program. By combining sanctions with incentives the United States and its partners were able to engage Iran in a bargaining process that led to a diplomatic agreement. If successfully implemented the Iran deal could serve as a model for the use of sanctions in other cases to achieve international policy objectives.

The United States has maintained a wide range of sanctions on Iran since the 1980s, but these unilateral sanctions had little effect on Tehran since the regime was able to find other markets and suppliers. The imposition of multilateral Security Council sanctions in 2006 was more serious and proved decisive in convincing the regime to come to the bargaining table. Especially worrisome for Iran was the vote of Russia and China in favor of targeted UN sanctions. Tehran recognized that it was now isolated diplomatically and that it would face increasing economic pressures to comply with the Council’s nonproliferation demands.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 62 other followers