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Will Sanctions On Iran, N. Korea Work?

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Will Sanctions On Iran, N. Korea Work?

National Security

Will Sanctions On Iran, N. Korea Work?

Will Sanctions On Iran, N. Korea Work?

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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U.S. sanctions on North Korea were tightened this week, 10 days after new ones were imposed on Iran. Sanctions remain an important alternative to military action in U.S. diplomacy. But will they work?


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Mary Louise Kelly in for Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

President Obama came into office talking about engagement with America's rivals, but with some of those rivals an outstretched hand didnt work and his administration has turned to sanctions.

Over the last few weeks, the U.S. and the U.N. have imposed a series of economic sanctions on Iran. Those sanctions include new restrictions on Iran's banks in hopes of strangling financing for nuclear weapons.

Yesterday it was North Korea's turn.

NPR's Mike Shuster has been following the sanctions issue and joins us now to talk more about it.

Good morning.


MONTAGNE: North Korea is pretty isolated as it is, and it is completely impoverished. So is there really anything left to sanction?

SHUSTER: That's a good question. It certainly looks like the sanctions that the United States announced on Wednesday duplicate sanctions just like them that have been imposed at various points - certain arms and military equipment as well as luxury goods for North Korea's elite. These are things that have been sanctioned already and it's what the State Department says are being sanctioned again.

It looks like the United States is trying to force U.N. sanctions to be applied more universally. There have been Security Council sanctions imposed as well on North Korea but they haven't been implemented thoroughly and the United States is now hoping that with these new sanctions or with this new approach, the United States might be able to force other nations to sanction North Korea as the United States has.

MONTAGNE: What about sanctions against Iran? Some say the U.N. sanctions were watered down by pressure from China and Russia.

SHUSTER: There's no question, Renee, that they were watered down. The United States wanted much tougher sanctions from the U.N. Security Council, sanctions that would really bite against Iran, and China did not want that, and Russia to a lesser extent. And so the U.N. Security Council imposed a fourth round of sanctions on Iran, but they are still relatively mild and its not at all clear that they will be decisive in changing Iran's behavior vis-�-vis its nuclear activities.

MONTAGNE: And the new U.S. sanctions in Iran, are they expected to have more of an effect - in fact, are they having any effect?

SHUSTER: Well, its a little bit too early to say but they certainly look like they could have a very significant bite. The United States has slapped unilateral sanctions on some 16 state-owned banks in Iran that are believed to be aiding the financing of Iran's nuclear activities.

And the United States is also expected to penalize some banks in Europe or in Asia that do do business with these state-owned banks. So the United States is trying to use its laws and its sanctions to tighten the screws of the international global financial system and really make it difficult for Iran to use its oil revenue to finance its nuclear activities.

But at the same time, the United States does know that Europe and Japan and other nations in Asia are going to have to cooperate if this is going to work at all.

MONTAGNE: Yeah. I mean the thing with sanctions is historically there's always a mixed picture. What if these sanctions against Iran and North Korea - these tougher sanctions - dont work?

SHUSTER: Well, first, they need time to see whether they will work or not and the time could extend over months and even beyond. At the same time, the Obama administration has essentially said it wants a dual track approach to Iran, it wants sanctions as pressure, and it wants engagement with Iran. If sanctions dont work there will be, again, much discussion about military action to take out some of their nuclear facilities.

The Obama administration clearly does not want to do that. And so ultimately if Iran's behavior isn't changed by sanctions vis-�-vis its nuclear activities, the issue of containment and deterrence comes up later on down the road.

MONTAGNE: Mike, thanks very much.

SHUSTER: Youre welcome, Renee.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Mike Shuster.

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