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Friday, May 21, 2010

As the Iran 'sanctions' sink in

Max Boot reports on the things that he's discovering as he continues to read the Iran sanctions resolution. What he's discovered has led him to ask whether there is any point to sanctions.
As the New York Times notes, “What is notably absent from the draft resolution, however, is any binding restriction on transactions with Iran’s central bank.” Nor is there any binding language limiting Iran’s oil trade, the basis of its entire rotten regime. As the Wall Street Journal notes: “The resolution — which followed 20 rounds of ‘hard bargaining,’ said Chinese diplomats quoted by the state-run Xinhua news agency — puts no direct restrictions on investing in Iran’s energy sector. That should allow Chinese oil companies to continue working in Iran, and China to continue consuming Iranian oil. Iran was the third-biggest supplier of oil to China last year after Saudi Arabia and Angola.” Oh, and the sanctions resolution even lacks a total ban on weapons sales to Iran.

That rather undercuts the Obama administration’s naive rationale for reaching out to the mullahs last year even as their own people were rebelling against them. The administration claimed that an outreach effort in good faith would make it easier to rally world opinion in favor of tough sanctions. Skeptics (myself included) were never convinced that countries like Russia and China would agree to binding sanctions under any circumstances. That skepticism certainly seems warranted now.

Given the weak nature of the latest sanctions resolution, one wonders, “What’s the point?” Certainly no serious analyst can possibly imagine that this will stop the Iranians from going nuclear. At most it provides a talking point for the administration to claim that it’s doing something about Iran’s nuclear program while in fact avoiding tough action – such as imposing sanctions on Shell, Total, and other Western oil companies that, according to the Wall Street Journal, continue to trade with Iran. Such sanctions are already possible under the 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, which would be strengthened by legislation that has already passed both houses. But the Obama administration shows no interest in implementing such tough measures. Instead, we are left with empty posturing.
But the point of these sanctions was never about stopping Iran. It was about stopping Israel from going to war to stop Iran. It was about doing just enough to prevent Israel from taking action without doing enough to seriously impair Iran and cause it to react violently.

Will the sanctions succeed in preventing a war over Iran's nuclear capability? That depends on how much Obama has managed to cow Netanyahu and how much pressure is placed on Netanyahu to act from within Israel. My sense is that while we continue to say that we will have to stop Iran, most people here don't really mean it - yet. There's no sense of going to war next week or next month to stop Iran. You do see people picking up gas masks (I saw another station this week but it was outside Jerusalem - I have yet to see one in Jerusalem), but I have my doubts whether the reality has sunk in for most Israelis that we are going to have to be the ones to stop Iran. Most of us seem a lot more concerned with the economy and with the 'Palestinians.'

What could go wrong?


At 9:30 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

The Israeli government certainly seems to be in no urgent hurry to deal with Iran. By buying into the linkage theory, Israel's government has ensured the country will lose no matter what it tries to do to please the Obama Administration.

What could go wrong indeed


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