The release last week of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report on Iran’s progressing nuclear program has to make one wonder whether more than 30 years of sanctions have helped to thwart — or even stall — the country’s nuclear designs. There is no evidence to suggest that economic coercion has ever made Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, rethink the risks-versus-rewards calculus for developing atomic weapons. And the truly crippling sanctions that might have more of an effect would never be accepted by Western politicians, who are fearful of higher oil costs and of being seen as too harsh on the Iranian people.
But giving up on sanctions is not the answer. Instead, we have to make sanctions smarter, more mutually reinforcing.