Do sanctions on Iran work?

By Jaime León

Tehran, Jan 27 (EFE).- The West has slapped fresh sanctions on individuals and institutions in Iran in response to the crackdown on widespread protests that rocked the Islamic republic following the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini after she was arrested for allegedly not wearing her veil correctly, but do these economic restrictions actually work?

The European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom have targeted Iranian lawmakers, military generals, police chiefs, members of the judiciary, Islamic organizations, state media and security officials for their response to the anti-government demonstrations.

These sanctions mainly consist of freezing assets and banning travel.

But they have yet to curtail that state repression of the protests. Since the unrest began in September, nearly 500 people have been killed, 20,000 detained and four alleged protesters have been executed, including one publicly.

It begs the question – do these sanctions work? Do they help the protesters?

“They’re useless,” Raffaele Maurielo, a Spanish professor at the Allameh Tabataba’i University in Tehran, tells Efe.

“The sanctions worsen the rights and security situation in the country. Pressure from outside Iran leads to pressure from the inside against citizens,” the expert adds.

Furthermore, the political restrictions add little weight to the sanctions already reinforced on Iran in 2018, when, under the orders of Donald Trump, the US withdrew from the historic 2015 nuclear pact, which had eased the country’s economic isolation in return for Tehran curtailing its atomic program.

The EU’s opposition to Trump’s withdrawal did not prevent relations between Brussels and Tehran from dropping to a low point.

Two million women lost their jobs in Iran in the wake of the 2018 revival of sanctions in what is another possible indicator of their inefficiency, Maurielo says.

“The sanctions do not help Iranians.”

Analyst Daniel Bashandeh agrees.

“In 40 years, international sanctions have not been able to change the internal politics of the country,” he tells Efe.

He acknowledges, however, that the EU’s sanctions on 37 individuals and entities marked an important step for Brussels in expressing its solidarity with the Iranian people.

The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, tweeted just that on January 23.

“To the Iranian people: we are hearing you. The EU will continue to support your aspiration for freedom and dignity. The fourth package of sanctions adopted today is a clear message that we will not stand idle to violations of human rights in #Iran.”

That said, many young Iranians consulted by Efe believe the EU sanctions to be little more than symbolic and that politicians in Brussels should take more concrete steps in supporting them.

“They could give out visas to young Iranians to study abroad like they did for Ukraine after the Russian invasion,” an engineering student in Tehran, who prefers to remain anonymous, tells Efe.

Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, an analyst, shares that point of view, saying that the sanctions announced by the EU are symbolic gestures that do not help the Iranian protesters.

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