Friday, April 14, 2006

U.S. seeks sanctions against Iran

The United States will ask its allies to freeze Iranian assets, impose visa restrictions and perhaps apply some trade sanctions if Iran does not abandon its nuclear program.

And why not? Iran is enriching uranium (though its claims are overblown and it's years away from acquiring strategic amounts of weapons-grade material), and their president is a nutcase. A basic rule of thumb: don't let nutcases have nukes, especially when they've been caught redhanded violating the treaties they say give them the right to have nukes.

Wouldn't it be nice if sanctions caused the Iranians to capitulate? Yep. Unfortunately, even setting aside the question of Iranian psychology, the U.S. will have trouble getting sanctions approved by the U.N. Security Council, what with Russia and China opposing the idea. We should still try; it will at least get that debate over with so we can consider other options. But it's a long shot.

Why? Well, the best way to make Iran pay attention without unduly harming Iranian civilians is to cut off military sales and aid. That -- and Iranian oil and trade -- is why Russia and China oppose sanctions: they're Iran's major arms suppliers, and they'd be the ones taking the big economic hit.

Might the West agree to compensate them for the lost trade in exchange for not opposing sanctions? That might work with Russia, which has plentiful oil of its own, but not China: China's economy is thirsty, and Iran's oil is not easily replaced. As well, both see their relationship with Iran as a key one for the future, giving them an oil-rich ally in a volatile region. They're not going to jeopardize that if they can help it. And both would prefer to make their money on trade rather than take handouts from the West.

Maybe careful diplomacy can persuade Russia that Iran getting nukes is just a short step away from a nuclear Beslan. But there's very little we can offer China that will speak louder than Iran's oil.

If either Russia or China refuses to budge, there's not much we can do other than use the IAEA to build the case against Iran and try to build a sanctions regime that bypasses the U.N.

Which is why a military strike must remain an option. An option of last resort, to be sure -- let's exhaust every other avenue first -- but an option nonetheless. Because it may well be that the threat of force -- and, if it comes to that, the use of force -- is the only thing that can make Iran pay attention.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honestly, do you think a threat of force will be persuasive on Iran's government? Don't you think that a threat of force on a group of fanatics just eggs them on? Does anyone think that a threat of force with the current over-extended state of our military is even credible? Doesn't threat of force just provide proof that they need the bomb to stave off aggression? Is it a coincidence that two powers the Bush has publicly placed in the US cross-hairs have decided it's in there interests to get nukes, and if you were them wouldn't you want them?

4/15/2006 11:13 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

I think Iran has rational (and irrational) reasons for wanting nukes. If I were them, I might be trying to build one, too.

So what? I also think we have rational reasons for not wanting them to get nukes. And in such a dispute I want to see us prevail, not them.

In a collision of interests like that, ultimately the credible threat of force is what gives power to diplomacy. If Iran knows we'll never use force, they can just ignore us diplomatically and build the bomb.

Honestly, let's say we publicly foreswore the use of force. How would you then keep Iran from getting the bomb?

4/16/2006 9:11 AM  
Blogger Rudi's Thoughts said...

Instead of dropping a "BunkerBuster" why don't we go for a short-term naval blockade of incoming ships to Iran. This will show we mean buissness and might catch nuclear tech going in to Iran. The blockade worked for the Cuban missile crisis. The blockade with diplomacy stopped WWIII back in the 60's.

4/16/2006 9:02 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

A naval blockade probably wouldn't be all that effective, since there are so many overland alternatives for bringing things into Iran. Not to mention airplanes.

The reason the blockade worked so well against Cuba was because it's an island, and it was in our own backyard.

4/17/2006 12:43 PM  

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