GAO: Sanctions effect limited


Iran’s global ties limit U.S. efforts to isolate the Islamic Republic, according to a report by Congress’ investigative arm.

“Iran’s global trade ties and leading role in energy production make it difficult for the United States to isolate Iran and pressure it to reduce proliferation and support for terrorism,” said the review of 20 years of U.S. and U.S.-led sanctions released Friday by the General Accounting Office. “For example, Iran’s overall trade with the world has grown since the U.S. imposed sanctions, although this trade has fluctuated.”

The report enumerated the sanctions’ successes, their limitations, and the difficulties quantifying their effects.

“U.S. officials report that U.S. sanctions have slowed foreign investment in Iran’s petroleum sector, denied parties involved in Iran’s proliferation and terrorism activities access to the U.S. financial system, and provided a clear statement of U.S. concerns to the rest of the world,” the report said in its summary.

The report stated that the reported impacts might be overstated. It pointed out that since 2003, the Iranian government has signed contracts reported at about $20 billion with foreign firms to develop its energy resources, and that the banks may be funding their activities in currencies other than the dollar.

In addition, while Iran claims to have halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, according to the November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, it continues to enrich uranium, acquire advanced weapons technology, and support terrorism.

Finally, the report stated, “U.S. agencies do not systematically collect or analyze data demonstrating the overall impact and results of their sanctioning and enforcement actions.”

Recommended from JTA