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The Self-Limiting Success of Iran Sanctions

Authors: Ray Takeyh, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, and Suzanne Maloney, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Brookings Institution
November 2011
International Affairs

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Abstract

Economic sanctions have often been considered an important tool for disciplining adversaries and compelling them to offer important concessions. History, however, suggests otherwise. Economic penalties rarely cause states to abandon important national assets. After decades of struggling under punitive financial measures, Iran has persisted with its objectionable policies ranging from terrorism to proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. All this suggests that ideological regimes that put a premium on their political priorities and which are seemingly insensitive to the mounting costs of their belligerence may not be suitable candidates for the type of cost-benefit analysis that sanctions diplomacy invites.

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