Time to End the Mockery, Impose Sanctions on Iran

By Ziv Kaufman
Staff Writer
November 8, 2009

Iran’s nuclear ambitions gravely concern the international community. While the country claims that its enrichment program is intended for peaceful purposes only, various intelligence reports suggest otherwise. The Bush administration refused to negotiate directly with Iran. In contrast, President Obama sent a delegation to Tehran and is involved in direct talks.

Whether or not, one agrees with this approach, it is fair to say that the current president certainly has greater leverage than his predecessor. President Bush was unpopular throughout the world and seen as a warmonger. Obama on the other hand, enjoys popularity abroad and at home. If negotiations fail, it will demonstrate to the world that it is the Iranians who have adamantly refused to compromise and justify a more punitive course of action for the United States.

Nevertheless, it is important to remember exactly with whom the United States is negotiating. President Ahmadinejad threatened to “wipe Israel off the map” and conducted a conference questioning the authenticity of the Holocaust. Indeed, he secured his second tenure by winning what most of the world calls a rogue election. Those who protested after the June elections were butchered in the streets and incarcerated. The regime continues to oppress women, minorities and political dissidents while implementing the death penalty on those that practice homosexuality. Iran is the number one sponsor of terrorism and actively supports factions that endanger stability in Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, and Bahrain.

The theocratic regime seeks regional power; it also attempts to spread its version of Islam to other countries. Thus, nothing frightens Western powers more than a nuclear Iran. So far, negotiations have not borne fruit, prompting the UN Security Council to impose three rounds of sanctions on the state. Russia and China reluctantly supported these sanctions, which had little effect on the Iranian economy. In the current negotiations, with the participation of the United States, Iran was given a new offer, wherein Iran would ship the majority of its supply of low-grade uranium, used for civilian nuclear power, out of the country for enrichment. The enriched uranium would be returned to Iran, after being processed in Russia and France. This would ensure that Iran could not use it to create weapons of mass destruction.

Iran’s response to this proposal could not be more disappointing. Although officials declared that the deal is generally acceptable, they made other demands. These would include importing uranium as opposed to exporting it, as well as shipping only 10 percent of its uranium out of the country versus the requested 70 percent.

Iran is buying time to continue enrichment. The United States has been negotiating with the Iranians, as President Obama promised, but his efforts seem fruitless. Iran is refusing to accept the offer and wants to continue its nuclear weapons program. It is time for the American president to impose some harsh, but meaningful sanctions and end this mockery.

(Disclaimer: This photo is being used under licensing by creative commons. The original source can be found here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8343990.stm. If you have any concerns with this use of this photo, please contact iar@gwu.edu.)


So China and Russia reluctantly support modest sanctions, but the U.S. should expect them to support "harsh, but meaningful" ones? How? I would argue that Obama's leverage is overstated in this case, and that sanctions are currently limited to what the U.S. can apply only: and unilateral sanctions—based on the presumed economic might of the the American economy—are useless. If applied, they only reinforce the Iranian claim that the U.S. is the villain, and Iran is the martyr. The way to "end the mockery" is to line up major industrialized nations to turn Iran into a pariah, not a victim.

That's a tough task, regardless of Obama's popularity (which is likely to evaporate when nations don't see their own benefit).

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