(Newsroom America) -- A newly released study by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found that economic sanctions against Iran have failed in their "principle objective" to prevent the Islamic republic from advancing its nuclear weapons program.
The report, authored by CRS Middle East specialist Kenneth Katzman, says that the "principal objective of international sanctions—to compel Iran to verifiably confine its nuclear program to purely peaceful uses—has not been achieved to date."
The report did note, however, that a "a broad international coalition has imposed progressively strict economic sanctions on Iran’s oil export lifeline, producing increasingly severe effects on Iran’s economy."
Katzman says because of that, Iran faces tough decisions regarding continuance of its atomic program, which Tehran has repeatedly said was being developed for domestic purposes.
He says a number of experts believe Iran may soon be willing to reach some sort of "nuclear compromise" because its vital oil industry supplies the government with about 70 percent of its annual income - revenue that has "declined sharply as a result of the sanctions."
The report notes that sanctions imposed by the European Union, which took effect in July, have led to a dramatic reduction in oil purchases. Prior to the imposition of the sanctions, the EU collectively purchased about 20 percent of Iran's oil.
"This embargo is coupled with decisions by several other Iranian oil customers to substantially reduce purchases of Iranian oil," the report said.
"Together, these sanctions have reduced Iranian oil exports to about 1 million barrels per day as of October 2012, a dramatic decline from the 2.5 million barrels per day Iran exported during 2011. This loss of sales has caused Iran to reduce oil production, to the point where it is producing less oil than is Iraq," Katzman wrote.
Nevertheless, the Defense Department has concluded that despite the sanctions, Iran has still managed to build up its military, including its ballistic missile forces, largely through its own domestic defense industry.
That said, "sanctions may be slowing Iran’s nuclear program somewhat by preventing Iran from obtaining some needed technology from foreign sources," said the report.
Economic sanctions have been the cornerstone of U.S. and European policy in the effort to halt Iran's development of nuclear weapons. The CRS report suggests that policy has been minimally effective, if at all.
Katman's findings come on the heels of a separate report by the International Atomic Energy Agency in August, which said that Iran was making continued, steady progress towards atomic weapons development.
In particular, the IAEA said Iran had doubled its uranium enrichment production at its Fordo nuclear site, which is buried in a hardened complex underneath the holy city of Qom.
"Tehran claims to be enriching uranium to 20 percent for its nuclear research reactor, but inspectors have found uranium enriched as high as 27 percent, much closer to weapons-grade levels," writes James Phillips, the Senior Research Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.
The issue of Iran's nuclear program is likely to be a part of the third and final presidential debate on Monday, which will focus on foreign policy, analysts speculate.
President Obama's administration has been following a policy of sanctions throughout his tenure, but Republican candidate Mitt Romney has said he would establish a hard-and-fast "red line" that Iran cannot cross without reprisal.
"Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability presents an intolerable threat to Israel," Romney said during a visit to the Jewish state in July.
Israel has threatened to launch a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, if the Islamic republic continues to develop its program.
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