Are the Iran sanctions actually working?

Tehran says pressure from the international community is starting to hurt — raising fragile hopes that Iran will finally curb its nuclear program

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad conceded this week that new American and European sanctions over his country's nuclear program are devastating the Islamic Republic's economy. Ahmadinejad said Tehran would weather the sanctions, which target the oil sales that keep his government afloat, but that they amount to an act of "all-out, hidden, heavy war" against his nation. Iran's oil exports to major consumers are down significantly since the beginning of the year and the Iranian government is facing public fury as food prices soar. Is a compromised Iran ready to dismantle its nuclear program, or are the sanctions just delaying an inevitable nuclear showdown with Iran?

Clearly, the oil sanctions are hurting: Though his ministers in Tehran claimed earlier than sanctions were having little effect, says Adrian Blomfield at Britain's Telegraph, Ahmadinejad is confirming that the oil export ban is working. Iranian crude exports to major customers have plummeted by half, to 1 million barrels daily, since the start of the year. The country's currency, the rial, is in "sharp decline," and ordinary Iranians are protesting the soaring prices of chicken, fruit, and other staples. Tehran is obviously feeling the heat.

"Mahmoud Ahmadinejad concedes Iran sanctions hurting economy"

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Iran can still sell plenty of oil: Don't be fooled by the pouting, says Christopher Helman at Forbes. "Iranian oil is still getting out." Plenty of customers, even big ones like China, are happy to buy its crude, especially since it's having to sell at a discount. Iran has ways to sneak the oil out, such as trucking it over land and loading it onto tankers in foreign ports to disguise its origins. And tensions are keeping oil prices high, so even selling at a discount isn't hurting Iran's profits.

"Renegade pals help Iran dodge oil sanctions"

Tighter sanctions are too little, too late: Sanctions, painful or not, "no longer cut it," says Chuck Frelich at The Jerusalem Post. "Iran is just months from having sufficient fissile materials for its first bomb." Once that happens, it will be too late for Israel or the U.S. to do anything. Whoever wins America's November presidential election will have to decide, quickly, whether to start preparing to attack Iran, or to "accept Iran as a nuclear power."

"Too soon ... too soon ... too late!"

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