After uniting against Russia, the West is applying the same approach to Iran
- Following the success of a swift collective response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Western countries are now coordinating efforts to sanction Iran for human rights abuses
- Lessons are being learned from the failure of slow and disjointed measures against Iran in the past
Economic sanctions have been the primary tool deployed in this effort; just days after Amini’s death while in custody, on September 22, the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned Iran’s morality police, the body that had detained Amini, for violence against women. The UK followed suit on October 10, with the EU imposing sanctions a week later.
In responding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the US sought to learn from perceived mistakes in the way measures were applied against Iran in the early 2000s, in what was a staggered and often disunited process.
The question that might now be raised is whether this coordinated approach will be applied to international measures against the Iranian regime.
The return to a more collective stance towards Iran is indicative of a shift in approach by the US. While Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA reflected his willingness to flout international consensus, his successor President Joe Biden has emphasised his focus on building a united front with key allies. He even prioritised negotiations to revive the 2015 nuclear accord.
Considering these failings, and the international outcry over the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Iranian regime, the return to consensus around new measures seems highly likely to continue. This approach is almost certain to benefit from the experience of collaboration in adopting sanctions against Russia.
Consequently, in 2023 we may see a return to a consensus position in the West on Iran, recalling the convergence of approaches that first brought about the 2015 nuclear deal. The focus of this united position may not be Iran’s nuclear programme but rather the Iranian regime’s treatment of its own people.
Furthermore, as Iranian support for Russia puts further pressure on its relationship with the West, 2023 could see increasing focus on new measures designed to decisively weaken the regime, with, for the first time in almost a decade, a fully united group of Western powers behind them.
Florence Coumbe is an analyst of Middle East politics and security who has been working recently with investigations business Alaco Limited