Iranian Studies List Which Sanctions Hit the Hardest

February 22, 2022
Behnam Gholipour
4 min read
Iranian Studies List Which Sanctions Hit the Hardest

It is no secret Iran is now desperate for sanctions relief. Tehran has now clearly signalled its keenness to reach an agreement with the P5+1 countries on a return to the 2015 JCPOA. Two recent, separate articles published by Tehran’s Imam Sadegh University and the Iranian parliament shed light on which sectors of the Iranian economy have been most adversely affected by sanctions, and what officials think about the motives for their imposition.



The Effectiveness of Sanctions by the US President and Congress

The biannual Political Knowledge Scientific Journal, affiliated with Imam Sadegh University, published an evaluation of the impact of 13 separate US sanctions issued against the Islamic Republic since the late 1990s. Of these, it concluded, eight had had a “profound” negative impact on the Iranian economy.

Among the most damaging, the authors said, had been the 1996 Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA, renamed the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) in 2006), the 2010 Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA), the 2012 Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act (ITRSHRA) and targeted sanctions on 50 commercial and financial entities affiliated with the Iranian government. ISA was introduced in 1996 by the Republican Senator Alfonse D'Amato, chairman of the US Senate Banking Committee, and imposed sanctions on the energy and oil sectors of the Islamic Republic. CISADA was an enhanced version of the 2009 Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (IRPSA), which had barred the sale of petroleum products to Iran and, at that time, also banned oil companies from selling fuel to Iran.

The study also reviewed 20 restraints imposed on the Islamic Republic via presidential executive orders from 1979 to 2017. Of these, the authors again found that at least nine had posed serious obstacles, including Executive Orders 1295712959 and 13059.

Executive Order 12957 was signed by Bill Clinton in March 1995 and since then has been renewed annually by his successors. It bans any economic cooperation between the US and the Islamic Republic, including investments in Iran’s industrial sector.

Executive Order 12959 was also signed by Clinton on May 6, 1995, and forbids any trade with Iran or investments by either side in the other country. The order also bans the private import of refined petroleum products or crude oil from Iran.

Finally on August 19, 1997, Clinton signed Executive Order 13059, which consolidated previous sanctions and added further details. Exports of technology to Iran and trade with private Iranian companies without prior permission was banned.

However, the authors said that at least three subsequent executive orders specifically related to human rights violations, rather than the nuclear program, had had “little effect” on the economy of the Islamic Republic.


The Iranian Parliament’s View

The latest issue of the Iranian Parliamentary Research Center’s quarterly Parliament and Strategy also featured a study entitled The Ranking of Economic Sanctions against the Islamic Republic that evaluated the impact of US-imposed and international sanctions on different segments of the Iranian economy.

Unsurprisingly it found that Iran’s petrochemical, oil and gas, banking and financial sectors had been the worst-hit, while EU sanctions specifically had harmed the aluminum, steel and auto industries.

In the banking and financial sector, the authors said, the EU’s ban on engagement with Iran by international banks and agencies such as SWIFT, an intermediary and executor of financial transactions between banks worldwide, had been one of the most serious and made life extremely difficult for both the Iranian government and its banking sector.

US sanctions, the study noted, had been the most impactful in barring individuals from trade with Iran-linked people and entities, and in enforcing overseas asset freezes. The UN Security Council’s ban on the export and import of heavy armaments had also had serious economic consequences.

Of all of the measures reviewed, though, the authors found the EU’s 2012 ban on oil and gas imports from Iran had had the most seismic impact. After the blocking of SWIFT, the 2010 US ban on the purchase of Iranian oil and gas came in third place.



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