The continuing currency crisis in Iran, which has seen the rial go into freefall, has been cited, with some celebration in certain quarters, as proving that US-led sanctions are "working" against Tehran. Increasingly shut out from international banking and struggling to sell its oil, Iran has been forced to sell more cheaply while buying raw materials at a higher cash price. This, in turn, has led to currency speculation that the government has done nothing to halt, and to sharp devaluation.
But what does "sanctions are working" actually mean? Some hawks have read it as the possible beginning of the end for Iran's nuclear programme and the collapse of the clerical regime. For others, including those anxious to avoid conflict over Iran, it has been seized on as a suggestion that the crisis might be resolved through negotiation and non-military pressure.
The reality is that the political, economic and social impact of sanctions can produce very different results from those allegedly desired, more often than not hurting ordinary people. And there is a third scenario, in which sanctions might actually make the confrontation with Iran more dangerous still.
The increasing popularity of economic sanctions, as Britain's former ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, has observed, is due to the perception that no other tool exists "between words and military action if you want to bring pressure upon a government".
Source and full piece: The Guardian, 2 Oct 2012