Sanctions work best when they’re coupled with support for the people

Sanctions work best when they’re coupled with support for the people

Ambassador Robert Joseph, U.S. Special Envoy for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security until 2007, addressed a panel discussion on the subject of “IRGC and Sanctions” in a Paris suburb on June 29, 2018. The event was jointly organized by FEMO and APA. His remarks follow:

Good to see you and let me also thank the organizers for inviting me to participate once again in this annual gathering. It’s a great event and I’m happy to be a very small part of it. I mean this is an event of tens of thousands of those who are committed to a free and democratic Iran. And my very best to all that attend.

In terms of the Annex 2, I would just add one footnote. Annex 2 was one of a number of fatal flaws of the JCPOA, and we could spend the entire session on what those flaws were including ineffective verification, allowing Iran to pursue advanced centrifuges, failure to cover missiles, failure to deal with the potential military activities that were uncovered by the IAEA. WE could go on and on. But I think that’s behind us, because on 8 May President Trump made what I consider to be the correct and very courageous decision to leave the JCPOA. In terms of your question, Lincoln, on sanctions and whether sanctions work, my answer would be sanctions can work. Sanctions can work if they’re part of a broader strategy, a strategy that has a diplomatic component, a military component, an intelligence component, and a broader economic component. And I think that’s important to keep in mind.

I think it’s also essential to note that sanctions work best when they’re coupled with support for the people, in this case the Iranian people. The regime has tried to portray sanctions as directed against the Iranian people. But you can see from the protests that have occurred over the past years that the Iranian people simply aren’t buying that line. They understand what the cause is and they appropriately put the blame on the Iranian regime. This is a regime that they know has mismanaged the natural resources of Iran, has spent billions if not tens of billions on misadventures in Syria, in Lebanon, in Yemen, and to support terrorist proxies. This is a regime that is corrupt to the core. As Secretary of State Pompeo said recently, the Iranian people can smell the pervasive corruption of this regime and are reacting against it. And I think that is perhaps one of the most essential elements of having sanctions work and having the broader strategy work.

So what can we do? Well, I think it’s very clear that we can continue to attack the financial networks of the IRGC. Recently, we reimposed sanctions on the governor of Iran’s central bank for funneling funds from the IRGC to Hezbollah. And there’s many more things that we can do in that context. We can also broaden sanctions to other sectors beyond petroleum related and financial related transactions to mining, to engineering, to construction. The IRGC is pervasive within and across the Iranian economy, and there’s much more room to apply truly effective sanctions that can get at their not just power but their lack of liability in the eyes of the Iranian people. In terms of working with others, I think sanctions will be effective as we move beyond the political impediments that have existed as a consequence of President Trump’s decision to leave the JCPOA. Once we’re beyond those impediments I think we will work very closely with our European partners. Because let’s face it, the European companies are faced with the choice of either continuing to go operate and work with Iran, or to face a complete divorce from the American economy. That’s really not much of a choice for the corporate entities in Europe. And you can already see shipping companies, insurance companies, petroleum companies, already moving to abandon their relationships with Iran. They have said that they will continue those relationships only if waivers are offered. And Secretary Pompeo has again said that that’s very unlikely. It’s simply not going to happen. I would just conclude by emphasizing again the importance of working with the Iranian people and working with the opposition outside of Iran who are determined to achieve that free and democratic Iran. Let me stop there.