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Event Summaries
October 15, 2015

Event Summary: Sanctions: A tool to create foreign policy?

by
Nicholas Hurley

On Wednesday 14th October, the Henry Jackson Society was pleased to host ‘Sanctions: A tool to create foreign policy?’. Featuring Richard Nephew, Former Principal Deputy Coordinator for Sanctions Policy, US Department of State and Lead Sanctions Expert in Iran Negotiations (2013-2015); & Program Director, Economic Statecraft, Sanctions and Energy Markets, Center on Global Energy Policy, Columbia University.

Mr Nephew argued that sanctions can be an effective tool for foreign policy, as long as sanctions are enforced as part of a broader strategy which takes into account the geo-political context of individual situations. He said that over use of sanctions can prove counter productive, and indeed backfire on the US economy if not used carefully and with clear, achievable objectives in mind.

Mr Nephew said that without sanctions, the international community would likely still be waiting for an agreement between the P5+1 powers. However, he also stated that sanctions ‘will not always be successful in all cases’, thus requiring a considered and targeted approach to sanction imposition.

Mr Nephew noted that in an increasingly ‘multi-polar economic world’, with powers such as China on the rise, the effectiveness of US imposed sanctions is dwindling, and will likely continue to do so. He cautioned against a ‘fetishistic obsession’ with sanctions, saying such an approach to foreign policy making is ‘dangerous’.

That said, Mr Nephew argued that sanctions can be incredibly effective. He cited the impact of the UNSC resolutions 1737 and 1747, which he said ‘forced the Iranians into the negotiating process.’ He further stated that the oil embargo dramatically impacted the Iranian regime, forcing them to continue negotiations.

Ultimately, Mr Nephew advocated an approach to sanction’s use which is driven by clear objectives, and underpinned by a variety of other military, diplomatic and economic capabilities that can help to secure US, UK and EU interests around the world.