The sanctions’ success has also persuaded the Iranians to try a tactic that has worked well for many other countries, including Russia: Persuade the West to keep its foreign policy concerns in silos — separating economics, human rights and nuclear weapons, as though they have nothing to do with one another. Iran’s oil ministry has even launched a kind of outreach campaign, declaring that “Iran welcomes any oil cooperation, even with American companies.” Presumably they believe that those U.S. oil companies would lobby the Obama administration, hard, to lift sanctions altogether.
Such lobbying would be extremely short-sighted. If Iran is able to make concrete, verifiable nuclear proposals, of course some changes could be made to the sanctions regime. Some have suggested unfreezing Iranian assets held abroad as an option. But while negotiations continue, let’s be clear about why the world cares about Iran’s nuclear program in the first place.
Applebaum writes a biweekly foreign affairs column and contributes to the PostPartisan blog.
Certainly we in the United States aren’t overly worried about Britain’s nuclear arsenal or about India’s. The United States is hardly in a position to oppose nuclear weapons in principle, since we and several of our allies have them. No, we oppose Iran’s nuclear ambitions for one reason: because we object to the Islamic Republic of Iran, a quasi-totalitarian state that since 1979 has been led by brutal, volatile men with no respect for the rule of law. Their regime is a “domestic” problem for many Iranians, and it’s a major problem for Iran’s neighbors and the rest of the world.
To put it differently: As long as men like Pourmohammadi are running Iran’s courts and prisons, as long as the Iranian judicial system is subverted by a politicized version of sharia, there will always be a limit to what can be achieved through any conversations with Tehran. Talking is fine. But the negotiators in Geneva should leave any optimism at the door.
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