Robert Tollast makes a good point:
Just as sanctions are now thought to be strengthening IRGC control, Saddam’s regime in Baghdad clung to power seemingly impervious to rising public anger, periodic bombing and the collapse of revenues. Fanar Haddad has argued that if anything, sanctions made Saddam’s patronage more valuable and command greater loyalty, an effect opponents of sanctions have frequently highlighted. In today’s Iran, regime elements have become masters of smuggling and the black market, rather like Saddam and his elite in the 1990s.
And there is a further price. The devastating loss of human capital could make it far harder to construct a legitimate post-regime government or even one accommodating to the west. Consider the results of last year’s Gallup poll in Iran on nuclear military power. Results show the danger of educated Iranians leaving Iran or being silenced by the regime as it gains greater legitimacy for resisting the West, Israel and sanctions
And news this morning that Iran may, in a possible effort to allay Western concerns, convert some of its uranium into reactor fuel couldn't come a moment too soon, as a more recent Gallup poll indicating souring Iranian attitudes toward the United States should raise a red flag for policymakers concerned about America's long-term interests in the Islamic Republic.
Washington has no mil-to-mil ties to leverage in Iran -- much like it did in Egypt two years ago -- and economic cooperation between the two countries is accidental at best. America's one card to play in Iran, conventional wisdom so often held, was a sympathetic and silently pro-American Iranian public. That now appears to be a less reliable assumption than in recent years.
That, among other reasons, is why the U.S.-Iran status quo is no longer sustainable. If present U.S. policy is designed -- much like in the case of North Korea -- to "sharpen" Tehran's choices, then it's time to put that policy to the test and make a comprehensive offer, either publicly or quietly, in order to settle old scores and end the U.S.-Iran cold war.