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EXPERT AVAILABLE: Lessening of Iranian Economic Sanctions Could Improve Diplomacy and Increase Dialogue, MU Expert Says

Jan. 16, 2014

Story Contact(s):
Jeff Sossamon, sossamonj@missouri.edu, 573-882-3346

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Iranian sanctions and their effect on the stability of the Mideast continues to be a hot-button issue among pundits and politicians. Earlier this week, House Minority Whip, Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD), criticized the White House and Obama administration for suggesting that lawmakers who are in favor of tougher sanctions in Iran also are advocating war. Now, a University of Missouri researcher says that loosening economic sanctions in Iran could lead to increased diplomacy and a more engaged dialogue with Iranian leaders, though tightening them would not likely lead to military hostilities.

“Since the Iranian Islamist Revolution in 1979, the U.S. has been hammering the country with economic sanctions,” said A. Cooper Drury, professor of political science and chair of the Department of Political Science at MU. “Now that the U.S. and Iran are venturing into the next phase of talks, it’s important to consider that increased sanctions tend to have counter-productive effects. By threatening further sanctions, as Congress is suggesting, or returning sanctions that were in place, we could derail the whole agreement and cause the Iranians to resist further dialogue.”

Drury and his colleagues studied the effects of economic sanctions on China throughout the Tiananmen Square political movement and the years that followed. Through systemic research of the events that took place during the event and its aftermath, researchers found that when the U.S. threatened to revoke China’s “most-favored nation status,” the Chinese ignored diplomacy and no concessions were made. However, when subsequent administrations engaged the Chinese economically, progress on human rights issues was made.

“Every time we threatened the Chinese with economic sanctions, they pushed back,” Drury said. “We found that the more we engaged them through diplomatic discourse, the better the outcomes. This could be the case in Iran as well. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is seeking success that he can report back to those in his country; success begets success. The Iranian people are much more educated, more open, and have a lot less anti-western sentiment than before. This cultural shift could lead to diplomatic success and a stabilization of the region.”

Drury joined the Department of Political Science at the University of Missouri in 2002 and now serves as the chair of the department. His research and teaching focus broadly on foreign policy and international political economies and he has published extensively on the use and consequences of economic sanctions. He is the editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy Analysis.

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