Report - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Sanctions Against Iran: A Guide to Targets, Terms, and Timetables

| June 2015

Addendum to: Decoding the Iran Nuclear Deal (April 2015)


The patchwork of sanctions imposed against Iran is perhaps the most comprehensive sanctions effort ever marshaled by the international community. Organized by different countries with different priorities using different tools, sanctions played a key role in convincing Iran to accept initial restraints on its nuclear program and negotiate over its future.

Yet the complex nature of international sanctions—which isolated Iran and severely damaged its economy—today poses a serious challenge in nuclear negotiations. As diplomats strive to reach a comprehensive agreement by June 30, the extent and pace of unwinding sanctions has emerged as a core disagreement between Iran and the West.

To assist Members of Congress and observers in analyzing these issues and judging a potential comprehensive agreement, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School prepared this brief to outline the key facets of sanctions against Iran. Written as an addendum to our April policy brief, ‘Decoding the Iran Nuclear Deal,’ this report is driven by the policy debate’s leading questions:

  • If negotiations with Iran succeed in concluding a final agreement, which sanctions will be relieved, and when?
  • Is the West limited in its ability to offer sanctions relief?
  • How are international sanctions divided between nuclear-related measures and those that target other Iranian actions, like support of terrorism?
  • What role have United Nations and European Union sanctions played?
  • Will Iranian compliance with the agreement’s terms be required before sanctions are waived?
  • If Iran violates the terms of an agreement, can sanctions be re-imposed?

In an effort to answer these and other questions, this report begins by considering the history of sanctions against Iran and assesses which ones have caused the most impact. Next, it reviews the process of sanctions relief and sanctions “snap-back.” Finally, the report provides a detailed summary of American sanctions and includes recommendations for additional reading.


Download the full version of the report below:

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Samore, Gary. “Sanctions Against Iran: A Guide to Targets, Terms, and Timetables.” Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, June 2015.