Foreign Policy Forum hosts debate on Iran sanctions

Behnam Ben Taleblu and Professor Jane Cramer debate U.S. sanctions on Iran during the Foreign Policy Forum event on Wednesday, May 15. (Emily Matlock/Emerald)

On Wednesday evening, the Foreign Policy Forum student organization hosted a debate on a timely and contentious subject: Should the U.S. end its sanctions against Iran?

The debate was originally scheduled for February but was canceled due to the snow. Now, however, the issues were more salient, said Trond Jacobsen, the director of Oregon Forensics, which oversees the FPF club.

The Foreign Policy Forum brings students together to discuss topics of international relations in a non-partisan, non-ideological format, said FPF co-president Sravya Tadepalli, a senior political science and journalism double major.

“We really try to provide a space where people of different political ideologies or different political interests and backgrounds can come together and just talk about foreign policy issues, international relations issues, and bring their different perspectives,” she said.

The club hosts one or two events throughout the year, such as Wednesday’s Iran sanctions debate, to encourage discussion about current events and gain new perspectives. FPF hosted speaker Keith Eddins, a former American diplomat and pro tem law instructor, to give insights on life as a diplomat in November.    

In the last couple of days, according to various news reports, officials of the United States Department of State have ordered all U.S. government employees in Iran to leave the state amidst rising tension over the Iran Deal, which aimed to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran’s possession.

Iran previously agreed to halt nuclear activities in exchange for some sanctions to be lifted. President Donald Trump backed out of the Iran Deal in May 2018, in favor of replacing or expanding sanctions, particularly against Iran’s oil industry. Both Democrat and Republican officials have expressed concern that this proposal may lead to a war against Iran without a clear deal proposal.

Two experts on the topic were invited to debate and offer their perspectives on each side of the topic. Jane Cramer, a University of Oregon political science professor who specializes in international relations and security, argued against the implementation or increase of economic sanctions.

Behnam Ben Taleblu, a fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, argued for increased sanctions. The FDD is a nonpartisan research organization based in Washington, D.C. Taleblu specializes in Iranian security.

Each expert had eight minutes to make their case for supporting or negating Iran sanctions. This was followed by another eight minutes each for rebuttal.

Cramer began by stating that the U.S. should have two major goals: to not have any nuclear weapons in Iran and to avoid war. With these goals in mind, she said, the U.S. should lift the sanctions so as to keep Iran from “going rogue.”

“They will do that if we threaten them with war,” she said.

Taleblu, on the other hand, said that successful sanctions against a country punish past actions, coerce a change of behavior and deter countries from continuing a behavior, like creating nuclear weapons, he said.

Taleblu listed five reasons sanctions could work, claiming that sanctions have proven to be successful and help keep the U.S. from entering war unnecessarily while still holding the country responsible for its actions.

The conversation was respectful and intelligent, if not passionate. The speakers articulated their thoughts while providing additional background for students who may be less familiar with the topic. After the rebuttals, audience members had the opportunity to ask a number of questions of the debaters, who even remained when the event was over to continue the conversation.

“These [debates] are really educational because they allow people to see different perspectives and how they interact, and how they clash,” Tadepalli said. The debates “allow people to understand on a deeper level some really important issues.”

The Foreign Policy Forum student organization meets every Monday at 6 p.m. Their last meeting of the year is this coming Monday in PLC room 353. Visit FPF’s Facebook page for more information.

Emily is a senior news reporter for the Emerald. She covers student organizations on campus and is interested in covering small community news through solutions journalism. She is a journalism and Spanish double major.

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