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USA*Engage Applauds New GAO Report Questioning Effectiveness of U.S. Sanctions Against Iran
Date: 1/18/2008

Washington, DC – USA*Engage Co-Chair Bill Reinsch today released the following statement in response to a report released this week by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), titled "Iran Sanctions: Impact in Furthering U.S. Objectives Is Unclear and Should Be Reviewed." The report calls into question the effectiveness of U.S. sanctions against Iran and recommends that Congress and the Administration garner the appropriate information and tools to regularly evaluate their impact.
"We commend the GAO for producing this report and for asking the tough questions about unilateral sanctions that the NFTC and USA*Engage have been asking policymakers for more than a decade. Consistently, we have questioned why Congress does not more adequately scrutinize unilateral sanctions, the ways in which they are implemented, and whether they actually achieve intended results.
“Since the mid-1990s, when the USA*Engage coalition was formed, we have argued that ‘feel good’ unilateral sanctions guided by emotional impulse and the need to ‘do something’ are often ineffective and counterproductive. Unilateral sanctions, we’ve said, should be the last tool used in the U.S. foreign policy toolbox. That kind of go-it-alone approach alienates the United States from our allies whose support would be at the very least useful in putting increased multilateral pressure on sanctioned regimes or individuals.
“While the report focuses specifically on Iran, it more importantly raises the specter that U.S. sanctions policy is in need of reform, as called for by champions of diplomacy like Senator Richard Lugar and former Rep. Lee Hamilton.
“We have long been calling for the recommendations included in this report, primarily that Congress and the Administration, in the name of accountability, should evaluate and reevaluate our sanctions policy. Congress must require, and the Administration must establish, metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of sanctions.”
The GAO report concludes, “…the overall impact of sanctions, and the extent to which these sanctions further U.S. objectives, is unclear. On the other hand, some evidence, such as foreign firms signing contracts to invest in Iran’s energy sector and Iran’s continued proliferation efforts, raise questions about the extent of the sanctions’ impact. Moreover, U.S. agencies do not systematically collect information on the direct results of the multiple sanctions they implement, or their data do not provide specific information on Iran sanctions. These agencies have not conducted a baseline assessment of the impact of the sanctions. Collecting data on the results of multiple sanctions against Iran and conducting an overall baseline assessment is challenging, given all the agencies involved and the complexities of collecting some of the necessary information. However, without an overall assessment of the sanctions’ impact and subsequent reviews on a periodic basis, the Congress and the Administration will continue to lack important information for developing effective strategies to influence Iran’s behavior.” The report can be found here:  

USA*Engage ( is a coalition of small and large businesses, agriculture groups and trade associations working to seek alternatives to the proliferation of unilateral U.S. foreign policy sanctions and to promote the benefits of U.S. engagement abroad. Established in 1997 and organized under the National Foreign Trade Council (, USA*Engage leads a campaign to inform policy-makers, opinion-leaders, and the public about the counterproductive nature of unilateral sanctions, the importance of exports and overseas investment for American competitiveness and jobs, and the role of American companies in promoting human rights and democracy world wide.
The National Foreign Trade Council ( is a leading business organization advocating an open, rules-based global trading system. Founded in 1914 by a broad-based group of American companies, the NFTC now serves hundreds of member companies through its offices in Washington and New York.