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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Revolutionary Guards are Iran's economy, so why doesn't Obama say so?

Either President Obama doesn't know how to present what he wants to do, or he's not planning to do anything about Iran. I'm inclined to the latter explanation, but let's see what you all think.

There's legislation currently in conference committee in the US Congress that would penalize companies that supply Iran with refined oil products. Obama is known not to want that legislation (although to veto it would cause him a suicidal embarrassment given the margins by which it passed the House and Senate). Instead, he says he wants to target Iran's Revolutionary Guards so that they will suffer and not the Iranian people.

If Obama were to truly target the Revolutionary Guards, there is no way that the Iranian people will not suffer. That's because the Guards are so tightly in control of the Iranian economy that Western estimates indicate that between one third and two thirds of Iran's GDP passes through the Guards' hands.

If that's the case, why is Obama trying to make his proposed sanctions look weak by saying that the US doesn't want the Iranian people to suffer? (The truth is that the Iranian people are suffering plenty and Obama is giving them no support, which makes his comment about not wanting the Iranian people to suffer from sanctions look totally disingenuous). Why does he insist that the US will only target the Guards when by doing so, he could make a much more powerful case that the sanctions will target the entire Iranian economy? Or perhaps he doesn't really intend to effectively sanction the Guards at all?

And why is he so opposed to the targeting of Iran's supply of refined oil products, which is, if anything, a much more narrowly tailored form of sanctions than targeting the Guards? Is it because the bill currently making its way through Congress penalizes non-Iranian companies who aid Iran in circumventing the sanctions? Is there any way to otherwise effectively sanction Iran short of stationing US troops at the mouth of the Persian Gulf and having US air patrols preventing planes from entering and leaving Iranian airspace? Then why is Obama opposing sanctions that would penalize those non-Iranian companies who help Iran do business? Unless of course, Obama has no interest in stopping Iran at all.


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