Are Sanctions Having Their Desired Effect On Iran?

The United Nations, the U.S. and other nations imposed sanctions on Iran over the summer. Now that they're approved, the challenge is to make them effective. Robert Einhorn, State Department special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control, talks to Steve Inskeep about the sanctions, and whether they're working.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

We're going to follow up now on the sanctions against Iran. They were imposed by the United Nations, as well as the U.S. and other countries, over the summer. Now that those sanctions are approved, the challenge is to make them effective. To find out how that can be done, we went to see the State Department's Robert Einhorn. He's overseeing U.S. measures against Iran.

Mr. ROBERT EINHORN (State Department): Our objective in implementing these sanctions is to change Iran's calculations of costs and benefits and bring Iran's leaders to the conclusion that the interests of Iran and its people are better served by complying with its international obligations, complying with the decisions of the U.N. Security Council.

INSKEEP: I want to ask about other nations and their cooperation, because since the United Nations has approved stronger sanctions, there's been much discussion of the fact that Russia and China - at least formally - signed onto them, did not oppose them. And yet there have been - ever since those sanctions were announced earlier this year - indications that perhaps Russia and China are not as enthused as the United States in sanctioning Iran.

Mr. EINHORN: Well, both Russia and China have taken the position that they are only required to implement the letter of the existing Security Council resolutions, including, most recently, Security Council resolution 1929, which was adopted in June.

But even though they say they're only obliged to implement the resolution, we are urging them to join an emerging international consensus for building upon that resolution.

There's a strong consensus, not just of governments, but especially private sector organizations - oil companies, banks, major businesses. These private sector institutions increasingly are recognizing the risks of dealing with Iran, and they are distancing themselves from Iran. And we believe this is having a major impact.

INSKEEP: I want to ask about some of the companies you just referred to. The giant Russian oil company Lukoil, after these sanctions were announced, reached an agreement to supply gasoline to Iran. This is something that, although the Iranians have lots of oil, they don't have a lot of refined gasoline. And it was thought that was one of the major pressure points. Suddenly, you have a huge company supplying them with it.

Mr. EINHORN: Well, a number of companies continue to provide gasoline to Iran. It's interesting to know that Iran's imports of gasoline have dropped very substantially in recent months. So this is putting pressure on Iran.

Recently, I read that Iran has directed that several of its large petrochemical plants are now being converted to produce refined petroleum products to produce gasoline. This is an indication that their supplies of gasoline, based on imports, have significantly decreased.

INSKEEP: What would you say to somebody who, cynically or not so cynically, would assume that when it comes to sanctions with Iran, you are - I don't want to say going through the motions, but doing the necessary things you have to do first before you take further action that might actually make a difference?

Mr. EINHORN: Anyone who took that position would be very misinformed, because the United States and many of its international partners are vigorously pursuing sanctions against Iran. There's a strong emerging consensus that we have to signal to Iran's leaders that unless it's prepared to negotiate seriously on its nuclear program, it will face continuing and growing pressures.

INSKEEP: You've been involved in nonproliferation for so many years that I'm curious how, after all this time, you see your job, if you think that in the end you can stop states like Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities, or if really all you can do is slow them down.

Mr. EINHORN: Well, one of your techniques is to try to slow down the process. But your goal is to stop it altogether. And we've had so many successes in actually persuading countries to stop their program that we certainly don't want to give up hope that we can hold up the programs even of determined countries like North Korea and Iran.

INSKEEP: Do you get up in the morning and come to work hopeful?

Mr. EINHORN: Well, I come to work committed to working hard for these objectives every day.

INSKEEP: Thanks very much for taking the time.

Mr. EINHORN: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's Robert Einhorn, who oversees U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea. We spoke with him in his offices at the State Department.

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