March 21, 2024
10:00 am - 11:00 am


Zoom Webinar

Sanctions have enormous consequences, especially when imposed by a country with the economic weight of the United States, inducing clear shockwaves in both the economy and political culture of the targeted state as well as upending the everyday lives of citizens. But do they influence the behavioral changes intended? Do sanctions work in the way they should? As the Iranian case makes clear, sanctions can have unintended, even contradictory consequences: After four decades, they have strengthened the Iranian state, impoverished its population, increased state repression, and escalated Tehran’s military posture toward the US and its allies in the region. 

With policymakers currently struggling to find ways to deter Iran and prevent a further expansion of the Gaza war by Tehran’s regional partners and proxies, the question of the utility of sanctions is seminal. To examine their impact and effectiveness through the prism of Iran, the second most sanctioned country in the world, MEI is delighted to welcome the authors of the important, newly released book How Sanctions Work. Please join us for this timely and far-reaching discussion.


Narges Bajoghli
Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies, Johns Hopkins-SAIS

Djavad Salehi-Isfahani 
Professor of Economics, Virginia Tech

Ali Vaez
Iran Project Director and Senior Adviser to the President, International Crisis Group

Alex Vatanka (Moderator)
Director of Iran Program and Senior Fellow, Black Sea Program, Middle East Institute

Detailed Speaker Biographies

Narges Bajoghli is an assistant professor of Middle East Studies at the Johns Hopkins-SAIS and award-winning anthropologist, scholar, and filmmaker. Her book, Iran Reframed: Anxieties of Power in the Islamic Republic received the 2020 Margaret Mead Award, 2020 Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Title, and the 2021 Silver Medal in Independent Publisher Book Awards. She co-authored How Sanctions Work: Iran and the Impact of Economic Warfare and directed the documentary "The Skin That Burns.” Bajoghli has written for The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, Foreign Affairs, The Guardian, Foreign Policy, and Jacobin. She has appeared as a commentator on CNN, DemocracyNow!, NPR, BBC WorldService, BBC NewsHour, PBS NewsHour, and in Spanish on radio across Latin America. Bajoghli is the co-director of SAIS Rethinking Iran.

Djavad Salehi-Isfahani is a professor of economics at Virginia Tech and an expert on the economics of the Middle East. He is also a research affiliate of the Middle East Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Djavad received his Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University.

Ali Vaez is Crisis Group’s Iran Project Director and Senior Adviser to the President. He led Crisis Group’s efforts in helping to bridge the gaps between Iran and the P5+1 that led to the landmark 2015 nuclear deal. Previously, he served as a Senior Political Affairs Officer at the United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and was the Iran Project Director at the Federation of American Scientists. He is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and a Fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Alex Vatanka is the founding Director of the Iran Program at the Middle East Institute. He specializes in Middle Eastern regional security affairs with a particular focus on Iran. He was formerly a Senior Analyst at Jane’s Information Group in London. Alex is also a Senior Fellow in Middle East Studies at the US Air Force Special Operations School (USAFSOS) at Hurlburt Field and teaches as an Adjunct Professor at DISAS at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. He has testified before the US Congress and lectured widely for both governmental and commercial audiences, including the US Departments of State and Defense, US intelligence agencies, and a list of international corporations.