This issue brief, authored by Richard Nephew, Program Director for Economic Statecraft, Sanctions and Energy Markets at the Center on Global Energy Policy, examines the recent history of Iran oil sanctions and seeks to draw lessons for their renewed application. Nephew is a former director for Iran at the U.S. National Security Council and was a member of the U.S. nuclear negotiating team with Iran from August 2013 to December 2014. The views expressed here are his own.
The executive summary is below and you can download and read the full brief here (pdf).
Sanctions imposed by the United States and its partners against Iran’s oil sector have had a major impact in debilitating both the sector itself and the broader economy. It is likely that this sector will be the target of additional pressure should the international sanctions campaign against Iran be renewed in full.
Leaving aside the current political debate over whether new US sanctions should be imposed on Iran or threatened in law at this moment in time, it is critical to consider what impact such sanctions would actually have on Iran, Iran’s customers, and oil markets in general. Though some argue that the United States could re-create its success from 2012–2013 in imposing high costs on Iran, this is not guaranteed, and changes in oil markets, the international environment more generally, and Iran’s response to sanctions pressure will have a bearing on both the effect of more sanctions and their utility.
This briefing examines the recent history of Iran oil sanctions and seeks to draw lessons for their renewed application to date. In short, I find:
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