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Why Is The U.S. Announcing New Sanctions For Iran?

The United States announced new sanctions on Iran, in an effort to convince the Iranian government to limit its nuclear program.
Posted at 6:37 PM, Aug 29, 2014

The United States announced on Friday new sanctions against Iran, in an effort to block the Persian nation's continuing efforts to build a nuclear state.  

The sanctions come at a strange time — amid reports that Iran is downgrading one of its largest reactors in order to ease concerns that it's being used to develop a weapon.

And although this is the country that once torched a U.S. embassy, and whose former president once called for Israel to be "wiped off the map," the last few years have been one of rapprochement between the two nations. (Video via ABC

Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani is a moderate, and since being installed in 2013 has expanded civil liberties and toned down the anti-Western rhetoric. 

He was also on one end of the first President-to-President phone call between the US and Iran since 1979 — a phone call that Obama said went well

"A new relationship between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect."  

But harsh economic and financial sanctions — designed and implemented by the U.S. — still cripple Iran's economy. NPR reports that inflation in the country is at 40%.

"Across the country the prices for consumer goods and everyday items have gone through the roof."

So, do the new sanctions mean the United States is losing confidence in the Republic of Iran? Well, maybe not. The sanctions are narrowly targeted — designed to inhibit Iran's nuclear ambitions without hurting much else. 

A notable new name on the list of sanctioned organizations is the Organization of Defense Innovation and Research, an Iranian firm that the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control says is linked directly to the militarization of Iran's nuclear program.  

The sanctions also target individuals who U.S. officials think are helping Iran acquire the centrifuges necessary to refine plutonium.

But mostly, the sanctions seem to be a gambit to influence what The New York Times calls a "continuing struggle inside the Iranian government over whether a nuclear deal is in the country's interests."

Any deal, which would be announced in November, would involve a trade-off: Iran would sacrifice its nuclear ambitions, and in exchange the United States would allow it to more fully join the world economy. 

And although Rouhani is the closest thing the United States has had to a friend in Iran for decades, it'll be a tough sell: Even his mostly cosmetic phone call with Obama sparked an intense and divided reaction in his home country. (Video via Channel 4)

Whether a deal is made or not, the communication itself is remarkable: The countries haven't had legal diplomatic relations since 52 US embassy workers were taken hostage in Tehran in 1979.