Wall Street Journal: U.S. economic sanctions on Iran are likely changing the thinking of its leadership toward its nuclear program, administration officials told a Senate foreign relations panel Wednesday. The Wall Street Journal
By SARAH PORTLOCK
U.S. economic sanctions on Iran are likely changing the thinking of its leadership toward its nuclear program, administration officials told a Senate foreign relations panel Wednesday.
“We do believe that the imposition of sanctions and pain that is being put on the Iranian regime is having an effect–perhaps not enough of an effect to change the calculus of the supreme leader, but it’s on its way potentially to doing so,” said the State Department’s under secretary for political affairs, Wendy Sherman, at a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that focused on U.S. policy in Iran.
Ms. Sherman said she did not believe the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has made the strategic decision to “deal on their nuclear program,” but rather the country’s posturing and statements are projections of power and an assertion of their authority.
Since early last year, the U.S. has targeted more than 75 Iranian individuals and entities in efforts to limit their access to the U.S. financial system, putting pressure on its oil revenues and reserves, and devaluing its currency, the rial, said David Cohen, the Treasury Department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. The goal is to change the regime’s behavior about its nuclear program and respond to international concerns.
Earlier Wednesday, the Treasury announced additional sanctions against an exchange house and trading company, based in the United Arab Emirates, for aiding Iran in its attempts to evade economic sanctions and maintain access to foreign currency exchanges.
Other designations in recent years have made it difficult for Iran to access the revenue it makes from dwindling sales overseas and, in turn, puts pressure on the value of the rial, Mr. Cohen said, creating incentives for negotiations to potentially work.
Ms. Sherman said there has been some “slight movement” in negotiations with Iran, but recent offers were “just too small.”
“They’re trying to, in essence, respond in their own way to the international community’s concerns,” Ms. Sherman said. “It’s not what we want as a response, but it shows they’re paying attention.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) asked what developments in the region might change Iran’s thinking. Ms. Sherman pointed to whether the Assad regime would be overturned in Syria, any peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, and what happens with North Korea’s nuclear program.
“At the end of the day, based on my own experience, this is ultimately about regime survival, and survival of the choices they have made about how their country is governed,” Ms. Sherman told the panel. “It will be that regime’s survival that will affect their calculus.”