Why the Iran sanctions matter

Wednesday’s U.N. Security Council resolution sanctioning Iran marks a critical turning point in the U.S.-led efforts to target Iran’s illicit activities. The resolution focuses on Iran’s nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile programs; the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which is responsible for these programs as well as the regime’s support for terrorism; and the Islamic Republic of ...

Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Wednesday's U.N. Security Council resolution sanctioning Iran marks a critical turning point in the U.S.-led efforts to target Iran's illicit activities. The resolution focuses on Iran's nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile programs; the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which is responsible for these programs as well as the regime's support for terrorism; and the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), which has been directly involved in proliferation shipments. The sanctions included in this resolution are, as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice put it, "as tough as they are smart and precise." If anything, this new resolution is both too precise and purposefully vague. And therein lies its strength.

The list of 40 entities and one individual listed in the resolution's three annexes is extremely targeted. Employing such "smart sanctions" -- pinpointing the specific entities and persons involved in Iran's illicit conduct and holding them accountable while shielding the general Iranian public from old-fashioned, shotgun, regime-wide sanctions -- has been very effective. This tactic denies Iran's revolutionary regime the chance to deflect blame for the country's economic woes, while disrupting its ability to finance and transport material necessary for its nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile programs. But the number of entities excluded from the resolution is even more telling than the list of those that made the final cut. Most entities designated this week, for example, had already been designated by the U.S. Treasury Department and/or the European Union. They have therefore already been subject to most of the impacts a U.N. resolution would hope to achieve, such as economic isolation by major financial institutions.

Read more.

Wednesday’s U.N. Security Council resolution sanctioning Iran marks a critical turning point in the U.S.-led efforts to target Iran’s illicit activities. The resolution focuses on Iran’s nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile programs; the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which is responsible for these programs as well as the regime’s support for terrorism; and the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), which has been directly involved in proliferation shipments. The sanctions included in this resolution are, as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice put it, "as tough as they are smart and precise." If anything, this new resolution is both too precise and purposefully vague. And therein lies its strength.

The list of 40 entities and one individual listed in the resolution’s three annexes is extremely targeted. Employing such "smart sanctions" — pinpointing the specific entities and persons involved in Iran’s illicit conduct and holding them accountable while shielding the general Iranian public from old-fashioned, shotgun, regime-wide sanctions — has been very effective. This tactic denies Iran’s revolutionary regime the chance to deflect blame for the country’s economic woes, while disrupting its ability to finance and transport material necessary for its nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile programs. But the number of entities excluded from the resolution is even more telling than the list of those that made the final cut. Most entities designated this week, for example, had already been designated by the U.S. Treasury Department and/or the European Union. They have therefore already been subject to most of the impacts a U.N. resolution would hope to achieve, such as economic isolation by major financial institutions.

Read more.

Matthew Levitt is the Fromer-Wexler Fellow and Director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism & Intelligence at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He is the author of Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon's Party of God. Twitter: @Levitt_Matt

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