New Congressional Research Service Report on Iran Sanctions

Check it out here. Very thorough and informative.  Quoting from the Summary section:

Increasingly strict sanctions on Iran—which target primarily Iran’s key energy sector as well as its ability to access the international financial system—have harmed Iran’s economy, but not to the point where key Iran leaders have been compelled to reach a compromise with the international community on Iran’s nuclear program. And, the strategic effects of sanctions might be abating as Iran adjusts to them economically and advertises the adverse humanitarian effects.

This jives with the conclusions of the recent NIAC report on the efffectiveness of sanctions on Iran, about which I posted a while ago.  It’s also consistent with my general views on sanctions which I’ve written about a number of times, including here and here starting on Pg. 6.

I really hope this starts to sink in in Washington – that sanctions will not force Iran into doing what the US and Israel want it to do regarding its nuclear program. I also hope it sinks in with people like Orde Kittrie who have so misguidedly been pushing for newer and tougher sanctions on Iran for years. 


7 Comments on “New Congressional Research Service Report on Iran Sanctions”

  1. yousaf says:

    Not only NIAC but another distinguished and expert US group urged Obama to re-think the intellectually lazy and ethically vacuous sanctions policy — so impressive were the people who wrote it that even the NYTimes picked it up:

    In a report issued by the Iran Project, the former diplomats and experts suggested that the sanctions policy, rather than bolstering diplomacy, may be backfiring. As the pressure has increased, the group concluded, sanctions have “contributed to an increase in repression and corruption within Iran” and “may be sowing the seeds of long-term alienation between the Iranian people and the United States.”

  2. Don Bacon says:

    Sanctions on Iran have been counter-productive. First, trade is a two-way street and sanctions on Iran have also been sanctions on other countries, primarily European companies that obey the sanctions and not Chinese companies that don’t. So now France’s Peugeot, for example, is in deep financial trouble because it had to halt most production in Iran. Peugeot has had to lay of people and sell assets. Germany’s economy slowed to “near stagnation” last month, and France and Spain have about as many unemployed as the U.S., which has three times the population. Spain, Italy and Greece, forget it. It’s not all due to sanctions, but there has been an effect.

    Secondly, sanctions have been a form of tough-love for Iran, weaning Iran off of petroleum exports (although it still exports a great deal of petroleum) and made it more self-reliant. Iran’s steel industry and manufacturing have developed and expanded. Gas, electricity, and engineering services industries have also grown, as has the export of refined petroleum products.

    Finally, sanctions politically have not worked and in fact have had the opposite effect of that desired. Because of sanctions, Iran has withdrawn from the Additional Protocol and also from the Brazil-Turkey 20% enrichment deal. Iran has expanded its uranium enrichment, built and installed faster centrifuges, and built an underground facility impervious to potential air attack. In recent testimony, DNI Clapper said: “Iran is growing more autocratic at home and more assertive abroad . . .”

    Anyhow, the real issue with Iran, for more than fifty years now, is not nuclear, it’s Middle East hegemony. Iran has it and the U.S. wants it.

    • yousaf says:

      Yup. The CRS text says:

      “Increasingly strict sanctions on Iran—which target primarily Iran’s key energy sector as well as its ability to access the international financial system—have harmed Iran’s economy, but not to the point where key Iran leaders have been compelled to reach a compromise with the international community on Iran’s nuclear program. ”

      But the conditions for lifting sanctions have crap-all to do with nuclear matters:

  3. Don Bacon says:

    yousaf — please help on an important point

    I am unclear on the effort required to go from 20% to 95% uranium enrichment.

    The media has routinely reported that 20% enriched uranium can be further enriched to weapons-grade easily and with significantly less effort than to get to 20%. That’s a main reason the West gives for its agitation regarding U enriched to 20% — Iran is close to a bomb, etc.

    However when I look at a table reflecting “separative work units (SWU)” that isn’t the case. Assay (% U-235 )–Required natural uranium (kg)–Required SWUs

    Click to access te_1452_web.pdf

    It takes five times the SWU to get to 90% than it took for 20%, according to the IAEA.

    Separative work units
    The standard measure of enrichment services. The effort expended in separating a mass F of feed of assay xp and tails of mass T and assay xt is expressed in terms of the number of separative work units needed, giv n by the expression. SWU = TV(xt) + PV (xp) – FV (xf), where V(x) is the “value function,” defined as V(x) = (1-2x) ln ((1-x)/x).

    What gives?

    • yousaf says:

      In this case, the media is correct.

      SWU is a horrible ‘unit’ which does not help.

      I like that IAEA doc a lot but that table can be misleading. As the text says “Typical quantities of natural uranium and SWUs required for the production of 1 kg of enriched uranium (LEU and HEU at varying levels of enrichment) at a tails assay of 0.3% 235U are given in Table I.”

      The important part is that it is SWU/kg of *product* so to make a kg of HEU *is* much more difficult than to make a kg of 20% — the table is right. But that is not what one worries about since at lower enrichments you can easily have more product without much difficulty. The better unit of “How hard is this to do”? is SWU/ton of feed needed to get to 20% vs. SWU/ton of feed needed to get to 90%: in that case there is very little difference between effort needed. So the media reports are right. But the IAEA report is not wrong — it is just a technical unit that does not correspond to what we think of as “effort”.

      There is a very nice graphical comparison of the units at:

      about 1/3 way down page.

  4. Cyrus says:

    Iran has repeatedly offered to cease 20% enrichment entirely if it is only allowed to get the necessary fuel for the TRR. Considering that the TRR poses no real proliferation threat (far too small, and under IAEA safeguards) one wonders what the point was in preventing its refueling…other than to force Iran to enrich to 20%, thereby brining Iran technically closer to making bomb-grade enriched uranium. In short, the sanctions actually made matters worse. No one is mentioning this.

    As for sanctions affecting Iran’s economy: Interestingly, despite the sanctions, Iran’s economy is set to grow next year according to the IMF.

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