Lopez testifies on sanctions against Iran before national security subcommittee

Author: Joan Fallon

George Lopez

In testimony today (Dec. 15) before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, University of Notre Dame faculty member George A. Lopez argued against passage of HR 2194, which would impose severe economic sanctions on Iran in an effort to halt its nuclear weapons program.

The proposed measures “will inflict economic pain in Iran, but produce no political gain on issues important to the United States,” Lopez said.

“Without question, the robust set of sanctions under review will adversely impact the human rights situation within Iran, as the Iranian opposition and civil society groups will be both more repressed and more vulnerable to the regime,” Lopez said. “We run a high risk that many Iranians will be angry at the U.S. for such sanctions, which will please our need ‘to bring the regime to its knees,’ but will actually strengthen [Iranian President] Ahmadinejad’s hand.”

Lopez holds the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., Chair of Peace Studies at the Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. A sanctions and counterterrorism expert, he studies and analyzes the use of targeted sanctions as tools of international crisis management. While his research shows that carefully targeted sanctions can be effective, Lopez argued before the subcommittee that the sanctions proposed on the Iranian government in HR 2194 “will do more harm than doing nothing.”

Additional excerpts from his testimony:

“…since the sanctions will fail to force Tehran to accept transparent cooperation with an international plan to provide it with processed uranium, the U.S. will be in a worse strategic position on the nuclear issue. And sadly, because we aim to impose these sanctions unilaterally outside of the United Nations framework, we will have undermined the reasonably strong coalition of support condemning Iranian actions that has emerged over the past year and which is the ultimate leverage against Iranian misbehavior.”

“…my caution regarding sanctions should not be construed as failing to appreciate the terrible, destabilizing threat that a nuclear armed Iran will pose to the U.S. and Middle East. Nor do I want to gloss over Tehran’s gross behavior against its own citizens or its illegal behavior abroad. There is no question that the U.S. finds itself in a conundrum with Iran. But most of the sanctions now on the table promise only to make this situation worse.”

Lopez outlined major research findings on sanctions and proposed a policy of “aggressive engagement until the Iranians are tired of us showing up at their doorstep.” He said this approach should include a new, narrow targeted package of sanctions on Iranian banks; independent nongovernmental investigations of systematic abuses of human rights; incentives for an Iranian regime that will comply with international law; and support for potential areas of cooperation with Iran on national security.

A member of the Notre Dame faculty since 1986, Lopez is spending the academic year as a Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., where he is researching and writing a book tentatively titled, “Can Sanctions Survive?”

Contact: George A. Lopez, 574-315-7118 (mobile), 202-429-1977 (USIP), George.A.Lopez.1@nd.edu