Despite the many flaws in the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran, most of the West has declined to support Washington’s decision to reinstate the sanctions that the deal suspended. Emily Landau explains why they are mistaken:
When assessing the potential effectiveness of sanctions as a means of getting Iran back to the [negotiating] table, it is important to keep in mind that they are not a perfect tool, and that they have a mixed record on compelling states to comply with the demands [of the sanctioners]. But of the tools available at . . . the current juncture, imposing harsh pressure on Iran is the best hope that the Trump administration has for turning things around so far as Iran’s nuclear [program] and regional [troublemaking] are concerned.
Indeed, empirical evidence shows that in the specific history of dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions since 2003, pressure is the only strategy that has led to a positive change in Iran’s decision-making in the nuclear realm, namely, one that is in line with the goals of the international community. Inducements—or “carrots”—have always been regarded by the regime as a sign of weakness to be exploited, and never as a goodwill gesture that should be answered in kind. Various carrots and expressions of diplomatic cooperation have never convinced the regime of the benefits of adopting a similarly cooperative stance toward the international actors trying to alter its behavior.
Unfortunately, and despite clear evidence to the contrary, the belief that goodwill will beget goodwill remains a steadfast hope among many—especially in Europe—who cling to the assessment that cooperative dialogue is the only route to success. Against all evidence, they continue to hold that pressure will only cause Iran to be more hardline, not recognizing that the hardliners—or basically one hardliner, the supreme leader—have always called the shots.