The myth of crip­pling sanc­tions

Tehran will get nukes if the world doesn’t get se­ri­ous fast

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion -

The White House keeps wait­ing for “crip­pling sanc­tions” to have an im­pact on Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram. It will be a long wait. This week at the Amer­i­can Is­rael Public Af­fairs Com­mit­tee (AI­PAC) pol­icy con­fer­ence, al­most ev­ery speaker who ad­dressed the Iran is­sue made ref­er­ence to the need for “crip­pling sanc­tions.” Pres­i­dent Obama and his sup­port­ers touted the White House claim to have al­ready im­posed crip­pling sanc­tions on Tehran. Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates and other ad­min­is­tra­tion crit­ics said the cur­rent sanc­tions are not crip­pling enough. The term has be­come so overused that it is a cliche, and there is good rea­son to doubt crip­pling sanc­tions can even ex­ist.

The term gained wide­spread us­age in the 1950s when Arab states at­tempted to use the United Na­tions to im­pose crip­pling sanc­tions on the young state of Is­rael. The at­tempt failed, but the ex­pres­sion lived on. Since then, the word “crip­pling” has been at­tached to ev­ery real or pro­posed sanc­tions regime from In­done­sia in the 1960s to Iraq in the 1990s. Some­times sanc­tions have had an im­pact, some­times not, but there are no good cases of a coun­try be­ing driven to its knees.

Even if sanc­tions bite, they don’t nec­es­sar­ily in­ter­rupt weapons de­vel­op­ment. The op­er­a­tive ex­am­ple is North Korea. Through the 1990s and 2000s, Py­ongyang faced a shift­ing ar­ray of sanc­tions and in­cen­tives geared to­ward dis­suad­ing the de­vel­op­ment of a nu­clear weapon. North Korea was crip­pled to be­gin with; then, as now, North Korea was among the poor­est coun­tries in the world. Py­ongyang was de­ter­mined to de­velop atomic weapons and con­ducted its first nu­clear test in 2006. The les­son that should have been learned is that even in a des­ti­tute coun­try where the peo­ple have been re­duced to eat­ing grass, if the lead­er­ship de­votes suf­fi­cient re­sources to weapons de­vel­op­ment, it can achieve nu­clear ca­pa­bil­ity.

Iran faces as­set seizure, fi­nan­cial re­stric­tions, oil boy­cotts and var­i­ous des­ig­na­tions of sup­port­ing ter­ror­ism. These mea­sures ar­guably have had some im­pact on Iran’s econ­omy, but not to the point where they will be “crip­pling.” Per­haps they could be called an­noy­ing, or ag­gra­vat­ing, but those terms hardly have the same ring. Un­like North Korea, Iran has a solid po­si­tion in the global en­ergy mar­ket, a func­tion­ing econ­omy and strong in­ter­na­tional back­ers in Rus­sia and China. Tehran also can count on ben­e­fit­ing from Py­ongyang’s ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­per­tise in nu­clear-weapons de­vel­op­ment. The idea that sanc­tions could be crip­pling enough to dis­suade the mul­lahs from achiev­ing their ob­jec­tive of pos­sess­ing nu­clear weapons de­fies both logic and ex­pe­ri­ence.

It is un­likely that sanc­tions have driven the mul­lahs to the bar­gain­ing ta­ble. Iran’s new of­fer for talks is a de­lay­ing tac­tic, a means of fore­stalling the use of force. Tehran’s best move is to be­gin an in­ter­minable round of ne­go­ti­a­tions to blunt the mo­men­tum for mil­i­tary ac­tion. As diplo­mats con­grat­u­late them­selves on fic­tional vic­to­ries for peace, Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram would con­tinue. That’s the re­al­ity of non­mil­i­tary so­lu­tions. The only thing sanc­tions are crip­pling right now is move­ment to­ward an ef­fec­tive so­lu­tion to Tehran’s nu­clear as­pi­ra­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.