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How efficient are U.S sanctions on Iran to bring the country to its knees?

News Analysis |

South Korea is going to seek an extension of the waiver which the United States of America granted to 8 countries, including South Korea, to keep purchasing oil from Iran despite imposing fresh sanctions after walking out of Iran nuclear deal.

South Korea’s deputy foreign Minister for Economic Affairs is currently in the United States where he will be meeting with U.S officials in the next two days to discuss the matter. The oil trade between South Korea and Iran has already plunged by nearly 13% since last year and expected to decline further.

Iran is still abiding by the terms it had agreed under Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or Iran’s nuclear deal, which it signed even after there is practically no deal.

The United States had given waiver to 8 countries which included its close Asian allies South Korea, India and Japan but asked them to find alternatives before the waiver ends in May. But South Korea believes that the quality and rate at which Iran is providing certain derivatives of crude oil, called condensates, is hard to find.

Iran has Other Means to Export Oil

North Korea serves as a perfect illustration of how the International system and geopolitics is not unilaterally defined by the United States and how countries, which the U.S imposes sanctions upon, still manage to keep the economic wheel going. The equation is simple, for economic sanctions to work they need to be validated by all the members of international community and for those who opt for an opposite course, are served with the sanctions of their own.

Read more: US sanctions are ‘economic terrorism’: Rouhani

Theoretically, it is an ideal set of rules to even coerce those countries into compliance which might not necessarily be agreeing to impose the economic sanctions over a certain country. But practically some countries are too big to be coerced, China and Russia in case of North Korea, and they continue to do trade with the sanctioned nation, sometimes overtly but mostly via covert means.

In the case of Iran, it is not the first time that the country has been clenched by the jugular vein of its economy, sanctioning the export of oil. Iran had come up with some innovative, and illegal too, ways to exporting the oil during the first round of sanctions under Obama administration during 2012-2016. The traders and state institutions have simply gone back to the same practices of using forged documents to show the oil tanker carrying Iranian oil under the flag and fake ownership of some other countries.

South Korea is certainly not the first and only country among 8 others to ask for an extension in the waiver and it would further put U.S efforts to economically hurt Iran into shadows.

It brings the discussion back to a question which has been relevant ever since North Korea has violated the Non-Proliferation Treaty and went on to make nuclear missiles of their own, that how effective economic sanctions really are?

Certainly, they have been not been efficient at all in the past, and the pattern seems to be the same in the case of Iran. At this point, both sides of the conflict are not clear how are they going to come out of catch-22 situation they are in. Iran is still abiding by the terms it had agreed under Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or Iran’s nuclear deal, which it signed even after there is practically no deal.

On the other hand, U.S wants Iran’s missile program to be eliminated and Iran’s strategic stretch in the Middle East to be reduced to zero, but other than economic sanctions there are no viable options. Both sides have threatened each other with the military action, but that too is apparently a long shot saved for the desperate times.

Read more: EU to consider sanctions on Iran for failed attack plots

Eventually, it all boils down to the effective diplomacy solving the problem on the table as it was done before. If Donald Trump truly wants to come clean with respect to Iran, other than the generally held notion that Gulf countries especially Saudi Arabia and Israel are behind the standoff which they do not want to resolve at any cost, then negotiations are the only way out. South Korea is certainly not the first and only country among 8 others to ask for an extension in the waiver and it would further put U.S efforts to economically hurt Iran into shadows.