Cover of How Sanctions Work by Narges Bajoghli, Vali Nasr, Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, and Ali Vaez
How Sanctions Work
Iran and the Impact of Economic Warfare
Narges Bajoghli, Vali Nasr, Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, and Ali Vaez

February 2024
200 pages.
from $24.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503637313
Paperback ISBN: 9781503637801



Sanctions have enormous consequences. Especially when imposed by a country with the economic influence of the United States, sanctions induce clear shockwaves in both the economy and political culture of the targeted state, and in the everyday lives of citizens. But do economic sanctions induce the behavioral changes intended? Do sanctions work in the way they should?

To answer these questions, the authors of How Sanctions Work highlight Iran, the most sanctioned country in the world. Comprehensive sanctions are meant to induce uprisings or pressures to change the behavior of the ruling establishment, or to weaken its hold on power. But, after four decades, the case of Iran shows the opposite to be true: sanctions strengthened the Iranian state, impoverished its population, increased state repression, and escalated Iran's military posture toward the U.S. and its allies in the region. Instead of offering an 'alternative to war,' sanctions have become a cause of war. Consequently, How Sanctions Work reveals how necessary it is to understand how sanctions really work.

About the authors

Narges Bajoghli is Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University.

Vali Nasr is Professor of International Affairs and Middle East Studies at the Johns Hopkins SAIS.

Djavad Salehi-Isfahani is Professor of Economics at Virginia Tech.

Ali Vaez is the Director of the International Crisis Group Iran Project.

"There is no shortage of publications on the Iran sanctions, but it is rare to see such detailed, serious work on this topic by highly knowledgeable scholars. How Sanctions Work introduces a wealth of information and perspectives not generally found in the existing Western academic literature."

—Joy Gordon, author of Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq Sanctions

"A vital study of the most tragic case in the recent history of economic sanctions. Bajoghli, Nasr, Salehi-Isfahani, and Vaez powerfully demonstrate how large the gap between the severe material effects and the limited political efficacy of sanctions against Iran has grown."

—Nicholas Mulder, author ofThe Economic Weapon: The Rise of Sanctions as a Tool of Modern War