Solutions to Violent Conflict

Archive for the ‘Iran’ Category

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.” Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Preventing War with Iran: Have Prospects Improved?

In Iran, Middle East, Nuclear disarmament on September 18, 2013 at 11:38 am

Ellen Laipson

The election of President Hassan Rouhani has augured in a wave of hopefulness that conflict between Iran and the U.S. could be avoided. But the escalating crisis in Syria has cast a shadow over prospects for improvement. The August 21 use of chemical weapons in Syria’s civil war generated talk of the use of force by the U.S. that some saw as a practice run for an Iran operation or as a move to deter and warn Iran.

By September 10, the circle had turned again, with emerging prospects of a new international initiative to persuade Syria to give up its chemical stocks and begin negotiations to end the war. Such a development would have great potential benefit for U.S.-Iran relations. Rouhani’s election and his naming of the respected diplomat Mohammad Jarad Zerif as Foreign Minister and lead nuclear negotiator have created hope that Iran may be ready to work for a negotiated settlement on its nuclear activities. Read the rest of this entry »

Prospects for Diplomacy to Resolve the Iranian Nuclear Dilemma

In Iran, Middle East, Nuclear disarmament on September 18, 2013 at 11:38 am
ARAK, IRAN - OCTOBER 27:  Irans contraversial heavy water production facility is seen in this general view, October 27, 2004 at Arak, south of the Iranian capital Tehran.  Iran said Wednesday that the plant will go online within a month despite international pressure to suspend such nuclear-related activities.    (Photo by Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)

Heavy water production facility at Arak, south of Tehran. (Photo by Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)

Seyed Hossein Mousavian

With the victory of a moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, in Iran, there is renewed hope for a diplomatic breakthrough in the stalemate over Iran’s nuclear program. There also are encouraging signs at the White House. President Obama in his 2013 State of the Union address called on Iran’s leaders to “recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution.” At the same time, however, there is a risk that if the current Western policy of pressure on Iran continues, we will inch toward a military confrontation. Read the rest of this entry »

Suspending Sanctions: A Strategy for Reaching a Nuclear Agreement with Iran

In Iran, Middle East, Nuclear disarmament, Sanctions and Security on September 18, 2013 at 11:36 am

George A. Lopez and David Cortright

In light of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s inauguration and his declared intention to enhance transparency and improve relations with the international community, a new and significant opportunity exists to end the nuclear standoff with Iran.

The core objectives of the international community are to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and to guarantee that its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes. This can be accomplished by convincing Tehran to accept binding limits on its nuclear program and robust monitoring mechanisms to guarantee the absence of military-related activities.

Iran may be willing to accept greater transparency and limits on its nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions. The United States could help to make this possible by offering an initial suspension of sanctions on non-military goods and services. The U.S. could urge the European Union to adopt a parallel suspension. Read the rest of this entry »

Stalemate: A Short History of Sanctions against Iran

In Iran, Sanctions and Security on January 26, 2010 at 10:27 am

Linda Gerber-Stellingwerf

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution and the subsequent hostage crisis, the United States has imposed sanctions against Iran on a continuous basis. The initial measures were moderately influential in resolving the hostage crisis, when combined with intensive diplomatic efforts. But sanctions on Iran have not been successful in changing the behavior of Iran’s leadership. And they have done nothing to reverse Iran’s nuclear ambitions.


After the release of the hostages, the United States did not lift sanctions against Iran. Instead, it sustained and strengthened sanctions during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s and further reinforced them through the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act in the mid-1990s.

The goals of U.S. sanctions are to end Iran’s support for militant groups such as Hamas and Hizbollah, gain Tehran’s endorsement of the Middle East peace process, and prevent the development of weapons of mass destruction. Iran has steadfastly refused to discuss these topics, however, until sanctions are lifted and the United States returns billions of dollars of financial assets that were frozen in 1979.
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Sanctioned into Submission? Options for Change in Iran

In Iran, Sanctions and Security on January 26, 2010 at 10:26 am

George A. Lopez

Sanctioned into Submission?

A man prays after exiting a mosque in Hamedan, Iran. Photo by Damon Lynch.

This post includes video content. (4:35)

The nuclear standoff between Iran and the western powers has intensified to the point where the only question being asked in Washington is how “crippling” — to use Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s preferred term — the new sanctions will be. Congress has adopted legislation to embargo gasoline imports to Iran and impose an additional asset freeze on Iranian banks and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Washington certainly has ample reason to impose new penalties on Iran. Tehran continues to defy U.N. Security Council resolutions regarding enriched uranium. In October, Iran walked away from a deal to exchange its low-level enriched uranium for internationally processed highly enriched uranium, which was urgently needed for medical purposes. Moreover, Iran has not moderated its support for terrorist groups, and its violent repression of domestic dissent has intensified.
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Reform & Resistance in Iran

In Iran, Sanctions and Security on January 26, 2010 at 10:25 am

An interview with Peter Wallensteen

Peter Wallensteen, a professor at Uppsala University in Sweden and the Kroc Institute at Notre Dame, is an expert on economic sanctions and regime change. We asked him about the reform movement in Iran and how it would be affected by additional sanctions.

How does today’s reform movement compare with the 1978-79 revolution?

The revolt against the Shah was well organized and largely non-violent. It worked because there were serious tensions within the regime, with leading Iranian figures opposed to the Shah. A key turning point was the 1978 walk-out, in which people refused to turn up to work and were able to sustain themselves with support from the mosques. This was an unprecedented form of “internal sanctions” on the regime. Nothing like this has happened yet in Iran. However, the persistence of the Iranian resistance suggests that it has some support from within the regime.

One major difference is that the 1978-79 revolt fed on anti-Americanism, symbolized by attacks on cinemas that showed Western movies. Such sentiments certainly still exist in the population, but they are not driving the resistance. Greater anti-Western sentiments could actually undermine support for the opposition if the regime can succeed in portraying the resistance as a creation of the CIA. The reform movement is seeking to maintain its legitimacy by labeling itself the Green Movement (the color of Islam) and using religious holy days for demonstrations.
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