Q4: Wouldn’t giving the Iranians some sanctions relief before all necessary restrictions on their nuclear program are in place enable them to harden their position? Even worse, might that cause the whole international sanctions regime to unravel before we have a final deal?

The type of relief that reportedly was incorporated in the draft agreement being discussed at Geneva was very modest. The great majority of the sanctions, including the basic ones involving oil and finance, would remain in place. Iran still would be feeling plenty of economic pain.

Modest sanctions relief as part of a preliminary agreement would serve the important role of a confidence-building measure. What is needed at least as much as making the Iranians feel pain is to convince the Iranians that the United States is serious about negotiating a mutually acceptable agreement.

If the international sanctions regime is so delicate as to be on the verge of unraveling, what we need to worry about most is that unraveling would begin with a perception in other countries that American, not Iranian, obstinacy is blocking an agreement.

 

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