Time is running out for the United States to persuade Iran to halt its nuclear program. As the potential for a diplomatic solution wanes, Barack Obama's administration must consider what steps might dissuade Tehran from continuing its nuclear program without punishing the Iranian people or strengthening those who rule over them, chiefly the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Among the options under serious discussion are tougher U.S. or multilateral sanctions. The U.S. Congress, for example, is considering a bill that would sanction companies that provide Iran with refined petroleum products. According to some estimates, Iran relies on gasoline imports to satisfy up to 40 percent of domestic demand. However, sanctions on Iran's gas would only hurt the Iranian population without crippling the Iranian government. Worse, they would most likely enrich and could even strengthen the Revolutionary Guards and their business partners....
Alireza Nader is an international policy analyst at the RAND Corporation. He is co-author most recently of the report, "The Rise of the Pasdaran: Assessing the Domestic Roles of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps."
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This commentary appeared on ForeignPolicy.com on December 14, 2009