U.S. Sanctions Against Iran Harmful for Future The Bush administration imposes sanctions on the Quds division of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and banks with ties to the Guard, charging the Guard is a terrorist organization. These are the the first sanctions to target the armed forces of a foreign government.
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U.S. Sanctions Against Iran Harmful for Future

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U.S. Sanctions Against Iran Harmful for Future

U.S. Sanctions Against Iran Harmful for Future

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Coming up, a decline in marriages between Sunni and Shiite Iraqis.

But first, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Thursday, announced new sanctions on the Quds division of Iran's Revolutionary Guard and on banks with links to the guard. The administration and the U.S. Congress have labeled the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.

Flynt Leverett is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation where he directs the Geopolitics of Energy Initiative. In government, he worked on Middle East affairs at the State Department and at the National Security Council for Secretary Rice and the CIA. He joins us in our studios.

Thanks very much for being with us.

Dr. FLYNT LEVERETT (Senior Fellow; Director, Geopolitics of Energy Initiative of the American Strategy Program, New America Foundation): Thanks for having me.

SIMON: Do you see these added sanctions as adding muscle to diplomacy or a step closer to military action?

Dr. LEVERETT: I certainly don't see them as making any positive contribution to diplomacy. The sanctions are not going to have any strategically (unintelligible) fact in leveraging change in Iranian behavior. These sanctions will make it more complicated in an already complicated environment to maintain some level of cooperation with our partners in the Security Council. And it is one more step on a road that leads us to a place where there is no other option for this administration than military confrontation with Iran.

SIMON: Remind us, why is it so difficult for effective sanctions to work in almost any situation than any of us can recall?

Dr. LEVERETT: Well, if sanctions aren't multilateral, if they're only unilateral, all it means really is that players in the sanctioned country simply find other channels for doing the kinds of business that they want to do.

SIMON: Did you mean specifically with Russia and China?

Dr. LEVERETT: With Russia and China, but even in Europe. So that's certainly would…

SIMON: The French are certainly supportive. They're even, in a sense, more outspoken.

Dr. LEVERETT: Yes, but the issue is, again, you know, if you're going to have sanctions that have any effect, you really have to have very broad participation, and certainly, if you want them legitimated by the Security Council, you have to have Russia and China onboard.

SIMON: If sanctions don't work, what alternatives are there then to military action?

Dr. LEVERETT: Well, I think the most important part of an alternative is to put an incentives package on the table that would actually interest Iran - the incentives package that's on the table right now. If you look at that package and you compare it to the package that the Europeans have developed on their own and offered to Iranians a year earlier, in many ways, the two packages are very similar.

But the European package also contain a very robust section about regional security guaranteeing that we would not use force to change the borders of Iran, the form of government of Iran as part of an overall settlement of the nuclear issue.

And the administration would not sign up to that package until those parts of the text were removed. And that means that you have a package on the table that does not address Iran's most fundamental concerns. Now, why should they be interested in negotiating on the basis of that package?

SIMON: But, you know, the counterargument, which is that a group of hysterical, bigoted people with mayhem on their minds hold power in Tehran, and they're shutting down the opposition. And just this week, they closed down coffee bars and bookshops where some semblance of dissident opinion had circulated, and there are people that say you can't negotiate with a regime like that, and you certainly can't agree to let them stay in power.

Dr. LEVERETT: Well, in the end, yes. There is an ideological component to this regime. There are many aspects of the way this regime operates both internally and externally that we don't like and particularly their external behavior is extremely problematic for U.S. interest in a lot of ways.

But Iran has shown a great capacity, you know, since the Islamic Revolution to operate in an instrumentally rational way on the basis of Iranian interests, interests to find and sort of traditional balance of power or economic terms. I think that is the far more important part of their foreign policy than any kind of ideological crusade.

And I think we should be trying to elicit and deal with those Iranian leaders, and there are many who want to run their foreign policy on the basis of national interest and not ideology.

SIMON: Flynt Leverett, senior fellow at the New America Foundation. Thanks very much for being with us.

Dr. LEVERETT: Thank you.

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