The impact of US sanctions on Iran


Nearly 14 months ago, US President Donald Trump re-imposed US sanctions on Iran. One of the goals of these sanctions was to reduce Iranian influence in the Middle East region by curtailing Tehran’s financial resources.

The question now is: Has there been any tangible impact on Iran as a result of these sanctions?

As far as nuclear activity is concerned, Iran has resumed its military nuclear program and violated the maximum limit stipulated in the nuclear deal for the first time in July 2019 when its enriched uranium reached 4.5 percent. This is a clear indication that Iran is a renegade state that did not deserve the confidence the Obama Administration placed in it.

Tension has also escalated with Iran in the Strait of Hormuz, as it attacked several oil tankers belonging to different countries, despite its denial of having anything to do with the attacks. Iran also shot down an American drone, which it claimed had violated Iranian airspace, even though the Americans denied this.

As to Iranian foreign policy since the abrogation of the nuclear deal and re-imposition of American sanctions, it is noticeable that Tehran’s support for Shiite militias has slackened. This includes support for the Lebanese Hezbollah, Iraqi groups and Iranian-backed forces. Nevertheless, it continues to support Bashar Assad and has helped him regain Syrian territory since 2013.

However, since April 2019, Iranian-backed forces have refrained from participating in attacks against Idlib. This is despite the violent bombardment by Syria’s other ally, Russia. For this reason, the Syrian government, represented by the Syrian Army, has failed to achieve decisive progress in recapturing Idlib.

As for Yemen, where there are renegade Houthi militias, armed and backed by Iran, a partial ceasefire was announced last winter, although it has only rarely been respected.

However, these changes in Iranian foreign and defense policies and their connection to US sanctions are merely a matter of speculation. At present, it is difficult to confirm any cause and effect relationship between the changes and sanctions.

May Khaled is a Saudi writer.