Soleimani and the strategic impact of US sanctions on Iran

On the last day of 2019, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that successive rounds of United States sanctions on Iran cost the Islamic Republic $100bn in oil revenue and another $100bn of investment money.

In a televised speech to the nation about what he called an “economic war”, Rouhani blamed the dearth of vital foreign exchange currency on punitive US financial measures on Iran’s oil and banking sectors.

That speech came just weeks after Rouhani proposed a “budget of resistance” to offset the “maximum pressure” campaign unleashed by Washington after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal with world powers in 2018.

“What should we do?” the Iranian president asked rhetorically. “When there is no food and water, you are still in danger no matter how strong you are.”

Rouhani said Iran is paying a steep price for defying Trump’s will – and that toll could worsen after Trump said during a news conference on Wednesday that the US “will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions” in response to Iranian missile attacks on US forces in Iraq.

The Trump administration says the goal of sanctions is to deprive Tehran of the capacity to fund “destabilising” activities and force its leaders back into nuclear discussions.

But the assassination of Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani and its aftermath raise important questions about whether sanctions have achieved those objectives – and whether the strategy is still viable.

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