As tensions rise over his country's nuclear program, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — who on Sunday arrived in New York for the U.N. General Assembly — says that Iran is complying with international inspections and would be open to concessions, but that sanctions against his country are "meaningless." Given Iran's progress toward refining weapons-grade nuclear fuel and building a nuclear energy plant, is he right? (Watch a Newsweek briefing on the issue)
Ahmadinejad is bluffing — the sanctions hurt: The U.S.-led sanctions campaign "is biting," says Juan C. Zarate at National Review, and it is definitely "hurting the regime" by scaring legitimate banks, shipping companies, and other businesses into abandoning Iran. But the U.S. needs to bolster the effort by aggressively going after the mullahs' assets all over the world, and making it clear that we'll use our military if all other options fail.
Sanctions never work: The purpose of the "increasingly harsh" sanctions is to make the regime "buckle," says Joy Gordon at Antiwar.com. But sanctions are by nature ineffective — they always "impact the poorest and most vulnerable, while the political and military leaders are insulated from their impact." If anything, they only "trigger resentment and resistance among the population and produce greater support for the government."
"How smart are the Iran sanctions?"
Ahmadinejad couldn't make concessions if he wanted to: Ahmadinejad seems like a dangerous "firebrand" to many in the West, says Ray Takeh in The Washington Post, but he's actually his country's "most persistent advocate of dialogue." Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is the one who thinks "reconciliation" with the U.S. will weaken the regime, and sanctions are not likely to change his mind.
"Domestic politics color Iran's susceptibility to Western courtship"