Iran’s currency has lost half its value; its oil income is down $4.5 billion per month; and its inflation is over 25%. These are the effects of Western economic sanctions intended to persuade Iranian leaders to curtail their nuclear development program.
In addition, Iranian banks have been blocked from relations with the international banking world. Foreign companies doing business with Iran are now subject to significant penalties. Such economic privation may make it harder for Iran to purchase the resources needed to continue its nuclear escalation. And sanctions may cause Iranian citizens to pressure their leaders to scale back nuclear ambitions.
Advocates of this economic strategy point to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s 1988 acceptance of a cease-fire in the Iran-Iraq war, motivated in part by the economic situation at the time. They hope a similar political change will result from current pressure.
Skeptics point to Iran’s large foreign exchange reserves and oil income, estimated at $40 to $45 billion a year even with sanctions in place. One observer calls our strategy “classic economic warfare,” an initiative to which Iran has responded with military threats. A group of Iranian parliamentarians this week drafted a bill to close the Strait of Hormuz to tankers carrying oil to countries participating in the sanctions. In response, the U.S. is sending military reinforcements into the Persian Gulf to deter the Iranian military from attempts to shut the Strait. We are also increasing the number of fighter jets in the region capable of striking deep into Iran.
Will our economic sanctions work? Having been to Cuba seven times, I can report that a similar strategy there has bolstered the Cuban regime rather than weakening it. Whenever the Castro government adopts policies harmful to the people, it blames the U.S. for their effects. While we have hoped for a half-century that the Cuban population would respond to our sanctions by revolting against their government, the police state that exists on the island makes such a response nearly suicidal. The failure of Arab Spring movements to dislodge Iranian leaders perhaps indicates that the population there faces similar difficulties.
The good news is that more Iranians have turned to Christ in the last 15 years than in the previous 15 centuries. Some observers believe that there are two million secret Christians in Iran. It is vital that we pray for their safety and witness, and that we ask the Father to bring conviction and repentance to Iranian leaders.
We are not at war militarily with Iran—yet. But we are clearly at war spiritually. In this conflict with radical Islamists, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). Have you enlisted today?