Natasha Bahrami and Trita Parsi in the Boston Review:
Come July, Iran’s oil will no longer flow to Europe, thanks to an EU embargo announced on January 23. That same day the United States approved sanctions on the country’s third largest bank, Bank Tejarat, which the Treasury Department says “has directly facilitated Iran’s illicit nuclear efforts.” Twenty-two other Iranian banks face U.S. sanctions.
The official objective of the sanctions is to compel Iran to negotiate with the West toward the implementation of existing UN Security Council resolutions calling for Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment program. Unofficially, there are hints that the sanctions are aimed at collapsing the Iranian regime and bringing about democratic change.
Supporters of the policy assume that there is a positive relationship between broad economic sanctions and democratization. The policymakers responsible for these measures either are ignorant of or are simply ignoring the empirical evidence: broad sanctions—total financial and trade embargoes—do not have a good track record of changing target countries’ policies or of pushing them toward democracy.