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Monday, August 03, 2009

Keeping refined oil products out of Iran would require patrolling off its coast

In an New York Times article on potential sanctions to be imposed on Iran to prevent it from obtaining refined oil products, David Sanger outlines some of the enforcement difficulties.
The legislation would impose sanctions on any company that sold or delivered gasoline to Iran, cutting it off from selling to the United States government and seeking to freeze its financing or shipping insurance. But many experts fear that true enforcement would require patrols off the Iranian coast, and that could lead to confrontations with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Given that North Korea has already openly tested nuclear weapons and the United Nations sanctions on it don't even allow other countries to board its ships and check for contraband, what do you think the odds are that Obama will get UN approval for patrols of the type described in the previous paragraph. Perhaps that's why the Israelis are impatient with Obama.
The White House has been extraordinarily tight-lipped about its Iran strategy, and has not publicly discussed the legislation. But already it has become part of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering with Israel. Israeli officials have argued in recent weeks that the American unwillingness to confront North Korea more forcefully as it develops a nuclear program was evidence that the United States might be willing to tolerate an Iranian nuclear weapons capability.

Mr. Obama’s aides, in return, worry that the Israelis are trying to force action too soon by shortening their estimate of how long it would take Iran to manufacture a weapon. In fact, no one knows how quickly it might be able to do so, but it has already solved many of the technological problems.
But the real question is one that the Obama administration has not faced:
“The question we have to face,” one American diplomat said, “is whether any sanction at this point can really deter them, given how close they are now.”
Indeed. Obama will likely vote "present" on that question and either try ineffective sanctions or do nothing. That leaves it up to Israel to act.


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