蛛丝迷网:伊朗制裁的动辄废立
蛛丝迷网:伊朗制裁的动辄废立
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Video - Spider Web: The Making and Unmaking of Iran Sanctions
Video - Spider Web: The Making and Unmaking of Iran Sanctions
Report 138 / Middle East & North Africa

蛛丝迷网:伊朗制裁的动辄废立

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由于战争是一个可怕的选择,而富有成果的谈判仍然遥不可及,制裁已经成为西方国家对抗伊朗的首要手段。对伊朗的制裁无处不在:在金融领域,禁止日常商贸关系;在石油领域,切断伊朗的主要外汇来源;在保险业方面,挫败其货运能力。毫无疑问,这些措施摧残了伊朗的经济,但它们是否成功呢?至少根据一个重要的标准(西方对核能力发展的关注强度),答案很明显是否定的。这些制裁还造成了很多意想不到的副作用(强化伊朗政府分配物品的能力;损害普通公民的利益;致使伊朗领袖愈加相信西方国家图谋更换伊朗政权,从而升级其报复手段;而织就成的这张由惩罚措施组成的网,拆解比编织还更加困难)。制裁不一定都是适得其反。但是,它很容易成为阻力最小的手段,其效力往往取决于所造成的危害,而不是对目标的实现。在今后的案例中,政策制定者应确保不断地重新评估这些制裁措施的作用。就目前来说,需要优先考虑的是制定有意义的、现实的制裁缓解清单来对应有意义的、现实的核让步。

对伊朗的制裁不是单一政策的产物,而是经过了三十多年的演变,有多种多样的制裁者和五花八门的政策目标。最终的结果是针对伊朗经济的几乎每一个重要产业的一系列可观的单边和多边惩罚性措施,制裁措施在原则上也覆盖多个政策目标(防核扩散、反恐、人权),然而,最主要的是,制裁旨在给伊朗伊斯兰共和国提供一个简单的选择:要么遵守国际核条约的要求,要么承受严峻的经济后果。

国际社会走到目前这个地步的过程展示了对试图影响伊朗政策的各种限制和挫折(其中一些是不可避免的,而许多却是自身造成的)。这一现象也展示了制裁不可抗拒的吸引力,制裁支持者包括希望削弱伊朗政权的强硬派和用其替代军事打击的温和派。这还展示了随着时间的推移,手段是如何演变成为目的:在伊朗的政治考量没有任何明显改变的情况下,除了制裁的数量和强度外,很难有其它任何指标来衡量其影响。在此背景下,制裁未能有效遏制伊朗核野心这一问题多少已被人抛在脑后了。

问题的核心关键是,西方与伊朗看待制裁的角度大相径庭。欧洲和美国官员采用的是成本效益分析理论,其推理逻辑是,伊斯兰共和国在某一特定时刻会得出这样的结论,坚持发展核武器的道路,会引发经济上的困难,其严重程度足以引发更广泛的民众浪潮,最终威胁到政权本身的存亡。但是,伊朗看待世界的角度截然不同。他们认为,同忍受制裁的痛苦相比,更危险的事情就是向制裁者投降;伊朗统治者认为,西方世界旨在推翻伊朗目前的政权,其推行的经济制裁只是动摇伊朗统治的众多手段之一。伊朗长期经历着国际上的外交孤立,它与伊拉克也有过交战历史,根植于这些经历的战略考量可以用两个词来概括:抵抗、生存,其中抵抗是生存的先决条件。

因此,人们有充分的理由相信,伊朗宁愿继续调整经济政策以适应国际制裁,也不愿意调整其核政策以换取制裁的撤销。同样道理,伊朗国内主要政治力量所展开的政治游说工作也是旨在说服当局改变经济政策,而不是调整核政策。很能说明问题的一点是,虽然伊朗政权的主要支持者已经受到了国际制裁的打击,但制裁的影响并不是对所有人都一样,有些人甚至根本不受影响。政府及准政府机构在经济上仍然占主导地位,有证据表明,与政府高层联系紧密的那些人受到制裁的冲击较小,能够规避制裁措施,开拓新的机会,从而最大限度的降低他们利益上的损害。正负抵消后的结果就是,伊朗的国家政治经济格局得以重塑,并且同制裁者所声称的目标背道而驰。

制裁还产生了其他一些意想不到的后果。制裁愈加全面,普通老百姓受到的伤害就愈加严重。尽管西方国家尽全力落实人道主义物资的豁免权,但关于民生物资,特别是专门药物的普遍短缺的相关报告,比比皆是。这部分归因于伊朗政府的效率低下,但也仅仅是部分原因而已。而制裁本身,特别是目前已经产生效力的全面和深远的制裁措施,必然同时引发雪球效应和寒蝉效应。伊朗缺乏外汇资源。外国企业由于担心在不知情时违反制裁,甚至避免涉足官方批准的项目。交易成本大幅激增,这也意味着公众对无能的伊朗当局以及麻木不仁的国际社会的愤怒更加不相上下。

以制裁为工具的强制外交的有效性最终在于撤销制裁的前景转换为政策变化的可能性;制裁效力的衡量标准是取消制裁时所能达成的目标,而不是施加制裁时造成的效应。这其中就存在着另外一个问题。对于伊朗而言,至多只能说局势不明朗。虽然伊朗一直以来都不愿意承认国际制裁所造成的影响或是对取消制裁的渴望,但伊朗官员日益将取消制裁作为达成任何协议的先决条件。然而,这谈何容易。对伊朗的制裁已经变得如此广泛,如此错综复杂,在没有取得伊朗在内政外交上的重大转变(发生的几率很小)前,要制裁者提出减免重大实质制裁很难;因此,达到能让美国取消制裁的条件尤其让人难以想象。这样一来,剩下来的选择就只有暂时中断或是放弃制裁举措,而伊朗可能至多以暂时性和可逆的措施作为回馈。

同样的,在许多情况下,制裁的后果获得了自己的生命力,并在制裁结束后继续存在。这是因为制裁下的伊朗的重要贸易和消费模式已经发生了变化。已经撤离伊朗的公司和疏远伊朗的国家——尽管他们可能为此付出了高昂的代价——短期内不太可能急着返回伊朗,至少他们在没有获得坚实保证来证明任何取消制裁的决定将是持久而非暂时之前会按兵不动。

最后,还有另一个相当大的风险:即将所有的赌注都压在制裁行动上,一旦制裁失败,战争可能被认为是唯一选择。

本文无意完全否认制裁作为一个政策工具的效用。即使是伊朗这一案例,如果没有实施制裁的话,伊朗可能会在核道路上走得更远。而且制裁仍优于军事对抗。但至少在施加制裁时,应该表现出更谨慎的态度和更明智的考量;在现有制裁措施无效的情况下,应抗拒继续堆加制裁的冲动;应不断对制裁的社会和经济后果进行评估和再评估;应保持足够的灵活性,以便在外交进程需要“手术刀”而不是“电锯时,将制裁和取消制裁用来推进谈判。

就伊朗而言,逆转整个制裁体系已经为时过晚。大规模的制裁体系已经形成,其衍生品已经形成,而且短期内仍会继续存在。五加一国家(五个安理会常任理事国,外加德国)所面临的挑战是制定一揽子激励措施,其中包括免除部分制裁,并确保这些免除的制裁在政治上和法律上具有可实现性,能真正解决伊朗的担忧。而伊朗面对的挑战将是如何就此做出回应。本周在阿拉木图举行的会议为双方提供了一个开始沿着这条路线努力下去的机会。

华盛顿/布鲁塞尔,2013年2月25日

With war a frightening prospect and fruitful negotiations a still-distant dream, sanctions have become the West’s instrument of choice vis-à-vis Iran. They are everywhere: in the financial arena, barring habitual commercial relations; in the oil sector, choking off Tehran’s principal source of currency; in the insurance sector, thwarting its ability to transport goods. Without doubt, they are crippling Iran’s economy. But are they succeeding? By at least one important criterion (the intensity of Western concern over nuclear progress), plainly they are not. Add to this myriad unintended consequences (bolstering the regime’s ability to allocate goods; harming ordinary citizens; pushing leaders persuaded the goal is regime change to escalate its own retaliatory steps; and constructing a web of punitive measures harder to unknot than to weave). Sanctions are not necessarily counterproductive. But, too easily they become a path of least resistance, a tool whose effectiveness is assessed by the harm inflicted, not how much closer it brings the goal. In future cases, policymakers should make sure to constantly re-evaluate their effects. For now, the priority is devising a menu of meaningful, realistic sanctions relief to match meaningful, realistic nuclear concessions

Not the product of a single policy, the sanctions regime has mutated over three decades, been imposed by a variety of actors and aimed at a wide range of objectives. The end result is an impressive set of unilateral and multilateral punitive steps targeting virtually every important sector of Iran’s economy, in principle tethered to multiple policy objectives (non-proliferation; anti-terrorism; human rights) yet, in the main, aimed at confronting the Islamic Republic with a straightforward choice: either comply with international demands on the nuclear file, or suffer the harsh economic consequences.

The story of how the international community reached this point is a study in the limitations and frustrations (some unavoidable, many self-inflicted) it has faced in seeking to influence Iranian policy. It is a study in the irresistible appeal of sanctions, backed both by hardliners who wish to cripple the regime and by more moderate actors who view them as the alternative to a military strike. And it is a study in how, over time, means tend to morph into ends: in the absence of any visible shift in Tehran’s political calculus, it is difficult to measure their impact through any metric other than the quantity and severity of the sanctions themselves. That they have yet to significantly curb Tehran’s nuclear drive becomes, in this context, more or less an afterthought.

A key problem is that the West and Iran view the sanctions through highly dissimilar prisms. European and U.S. officials bank on a cost-benefit analysis pursuant to which the Islamic Republic, at some point, will conclude that persevering on the nuclear track will prompt economic hardships sufficiently great to trigger more extensive popular unrest, ultimately threatening regime survival itself. But the world looks very different from Tehran. There, the one thing considered more perilous than suffering from sanctions is surrendering to them; persuaded the West is intent on toppling the regime, the leadership views economic steps as just one in a panoply of measures designed to destabilise it. Its strategy, rooted in the experience of diplomatic isolation and the war with Iraq, can be summed up in two words: resist and survive, the former being the prerequisite to the latter.

So there are good reasons for thinking that, rather than adjusting its nuclear policy to remove the sanctions, the regime will continue to adjust its economic policy in order to adapt to them. Likewise, whatever lobbying has occurred from key domestic constituencies principally has been aimed at convincing the regime to amend its economic as opposed to its nuclear approach. Tellingly, and while important regime constituencies have been harmed by international penalties, not all of them have been harmed equally and not all of them have been harmed at all. Governmental and quasi-governmental institutions still dominate the economy, and evidence suggests that groups with superior contacts with the state have been in a position to weather the storm, circumvent sanctions, exploit new opportunities and thus minimise any damage to their interests. The net effect is to mould the nation’s political economy in ways that run directly counter to the sanctioning nations’ stated intent.

There are other unintended implications. The more comprehensive the sanctions, the likelier they will harm average citizens. For all the West’s efforts to exempt humanitarian goods, reports of widespread shortages, notably of specialised medicine, abound. This can be attributed partly to regime inefficiency, but only partly. For sanctions, notably as comprehensive and far-reaching as those presently in effect, inevitably have both a snowballing and chilling effect. Iranians lack foreign currency. Foreign businesses, fearing they might unknowingly cross an impermissible line, prefer to shy away even from authorised deals. Transaction costs have escalated. In turn, this means that the target of public wrath is now more evenly divided between a regime viewed as incompetent and an outside world seen as uncaring.

Ultimately, sanctions as a tool of coercive diplomacy are only as effective as the prospect of relieving them in exchange for policy shifts is real; the measure of efficacy lies in what can be obtained when they are removed, not what happens when they are imposed. Therein lies another problem. For in the Iranian case, the situation at best is murky in this regard. Although long reluctant to acknowledge the impact of sanctions or project any eagerness to see them lifted, Iranian officials increasingly identify such a step as a condition for any accord. Yet that is far easier said than done. Sanctions have become so extensive and so intricately woven that it will be hard to offer significant, concrete relief short of a major – and improbable – turnaround in major aspects of the Islamic Republic’s domestic and foreign policies; reaching the threshold for removing U.S. sanctions in particular is hard to imagine. That leaves the option of a time-limited suspension or waiver, which in turn is likely to prompt at best time-limited and reversible Iranian reciprocal steps.

Too, the impact of sanctions in many cases has acquired a life of its own, one that will outlast the measures themselves. This is because important trading and consumption patterns already have changed. Companies and countries that have shifted away from Iran – often at considerable expense – are unlikely to rush back, at least short of solid assurances that any decision to remove the penalties will be lasting rather than temporary.

Finally, there is another, considerable risk: that by placing all one’s eggs in the sanctions basket, failure may appear to leave no other option but war.

None of this is meant to indict sanctions as a policy tool. Even in the Iranian case, it is plausible that, in their absence, Tehran might have advanced further along the nuclear path. And they remain an option preferable to military confrontation. But, at a minimum, it argues for exhibiting greater prudence and judiciousness in imposing them; resisting the impulse to pile on more sanctions when those already in place do not succeed; constantly assessing and reassessing their social and economic consequences; and preserving sufficient nimbleness so that they can be used – including through their removal – to advance negotiations in a diplomatic process where a scalpel, not a chainsaw, is required.

As far as Iran is concerned, it is too late to reverse course. The massive sanctions regime is in place, warts and all, and not about to be removed. The challenge for the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany) is to devise a package of incentives, including some less than complete degree of relief, that is politically as well as legally achievable and that genuinely addresses Iranian concerns. And the challenge for Tehran will be to respond in kind. This week’s meeting at Almaty offers the two sides an opportunity to start down that path.

Washington/Brussels, 25 February 2013

Iran Sanctions Interactive CRISIS GROUP

This interactive highlights the major unilateral, multilateral and international sanctions imposed on Iran and breaks them down by year, economic impact, trigger, targets and reversibility. 

Video - Spider Web: The Making and Unmaking of Iran Sanctions

Ali Vaez, Senior Iran Analyst for Crisis Group, discusses the latest round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 on sanctions and Iran's nuclear enrichment program.

spider-web-video-cover

Spider Web: The Making and Unmaking of Iran Sanctions

In this video, Crisis Group's Senior Iran Analyst Ali Vaez discusses the latest round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 on sanctions and Iran's nuclear enrichment program. CRISIS GROUP

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