The conventional wisdom in Washington is that tougher sanctions are necessary to prevent Iran from building the bomb. My view is the opposite. The imposition of punitive sanctions has failed to change Iranian policy in the past, and there is little prospect that more of the same will succeed now.
Don’t get me wrong. I agree with the aim of preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. A nuclear armed-Iran would be a grave security threat to the region and globally. A settlement of the nuclear standoff would be enormously beneficial to international security and to the cause of global disarmament.
Sanctions can help to achieve this result, but not if they are used solely for punishment. To be effective sanctions must be combined with incentives and security guarantees as part of a negotiated diplomatic agreement.
Read my recent analysis of Iran sanctions in Foreign Policy in Focus.