October 21, 2022

How Not to Help Iran’s Protesters

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by Farhad Rezaei, Senior Research Fellow

Sanctions relief would only make it easier for the Islamic Republic to fund its brutal crackdown on the Iranian people.

The ongoing riots triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Kurdish woman murdered by the Islamic Republic’s chastity police, have unleashed a torrent of discussion about how America should respond.

Some observers would like to see President Biden intensify sanctions on Tehran to show support for the protestors and, ideally, hobble the regime. Others want to lift the sanctions to empower the Iranian people. According to Esfandyar Batmanghelidge, who is one of the proponents of the latter argument and of diplomatic engagement with Iran, “sanctions relief will make no difference as to whether the Islamic Republic can beat protestors, but . . . gives Iranian society the means for lasting political action.”

In reality, though, sanctions relief would only enable the Islamic Republic to fund its coercive apparatus, rather than empowering ordinary Iranians…