The Wall Street Journal reports: “The European Union’s new steps aimed at tightening the noose around Iran’s banks are unlikely to bridge a growing gap between Brussels and Washington over how hard to push financial sanctions against the Tehran regime.” Meanwhile, Congress is moving ahead with much tougher measures:
[W]hile Europe prepares to act, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are drafting bills that would seek to blacklist essentially every Iranian bank and threaten penalties against European and other overseas companies that deal with any of these banks. The move is aimed at preventing Tehran from using untargeted banks to fund its nuclear program, which the U.S. and many EU countries say is aimed at producing nuclear weapons.
Tehran says its nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes.
Congress’s plans mean the board of directors of European companies like Belgium-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, a financial communication and clearing system almost all the world’s major banks use, could still face penalties and sanctions even if it fully complies with EU rules. Those sanctions could include banning them from the U.S. financial system, congressional aides said.
As diligent as Congress has been, the differences between the United States and the E.U. serve to highlight how limited and porous sanctions are.
Josh Block, a Democratic activist and former spokesman of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) , had this reaction to the Wall Street Journal article in an e-mail to Right Turn: “The unwillingness of the Europeans and others to move ahead with the toughest and tightest sanctions as humanly possible, now, makes less palatable options more likely. If people in Europe and elsewhere want to avoid kinetic action to stop Iran’s nuclear pursuit, as they claim, it’s time to put their money where their mouth is, now, and if they don’t, they certainly forfeit the right complain later.”
But even if the United States and the E.U. were in sync, there is the rest of the world that continues to do business with Iran. Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton tells me, “Objectively speaking, focusing on sanctions simply provides the comforting illusion of stopping or slowing Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, without actually changing the end result. As long as countries like China, Russia, India, Turkey, Iraq, Venezuela and others are prepared to help Iran evade or camouflage either oil or financial-institution sanctions, they cannot be effective.” In his view, all of this is too little, too late. “Raising Iran’s transaction costs is simply not enough, given how close the mullahs are to crossing the weaponization finish line.”
To recap, the administration wasted almost two years on “engagement.” Kicking and screaming, the administration was dragged into sanctions mode by Congress, at every turn seeking to delay and loosen lawmakers’ proposals to ratchet up financial penalties on those who do business with the Iranian regime. And now we frantically try to plug this and that hole in the sanctions regimen, hoping the mullahs will suddenly become concerned enough about the country’s economic tailspin to give up its weapons program. But, in fact, that program has accelerated.
After telling AIPAC this month that there was still time for diplomacy to work, President Obama now lets on that the window for a diplomatic solution is “shrinking.” Perhaps it was an illusion all along, born of an unwillingness to face up to the nature of the Iranian regime and the necessity of putting the mullahs (as Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi was in 2003 in the wake of the U.S. ouster of Saddam Hussein) in fear of their regime’s (and personal) survival.
In any event, the president — having dismissed a robust policy of regime change, repeatedly talked down the prospect of military action, tolerated Iran’s killing of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, taken no action in response to Iran’s attempted assassination of a Saudi diplomat on U.S. soil and signaled by withdrawal from Iraq and a rush to the exits in Afghanistan our willingness to cede ground to our foes — now faces an Iranian regime that is emboldened and on the verge of acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. He will soon be confronted with the choice: military action (by Israel or the United States) or acceptance of Iran as a nuclear power, something he said he would never do. It’s a Hobson’s choice, largely of his own making due to his unserious and delusional foreign policy.