President Obama should get credit for upping the sanctions ante on Iran, albeit months after he could have done so.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee hit the right notes in praising the sanctions while nudging the president to sound like he means it when he talks about the military option. It said in an e-mail:
The President’s action demonstrates American resolve to escalate economic pressure on Iran to persuade Tehran to halt its nuclear weapons quest.
The new measure authorizes sanctions on foreign financial institutions that deal in Iranian currency, provide goods or services to the Iranian automotive sector or provide material support to sanctioned Iranian entities.
AIPAC also commends the Treasury and State Departments’ efforts to increase sanctions enforcement. Today, the Treasury Department sanctioned a shadowy network of more than three dozen companies controlled by Iran’s leadership that generated billions of dollars for the regime. Since March, the administration has sanctioned multiple schemes to evade measures targeting Iran’s energy and transportation sectors. Sanctions have been imposed on entities buying Iranian petrochemicals, entities aiding Iran’s nuclear program and individuals that violate the human rights of Iranians citizens. For the first time, the United States targeted an exchange house and trading company that were supporting sanctioned Iranian banks.
We urge the administration to continue escalating the pressure on Iran and those individuals, companies and countries that violate our sanctions. In particular, countries that fail to significantly reduce their purchases of Iranian crude oil must be held accountable. We also urge the administration to continue to emphasize that the US is prepared to use all available measures to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.
However, just as Obama is demonstrating some economic muscle, he signals reticence with regard to enforcing prohibitions on weapons of mass destruction and preventing genocide. Even the United Nations Human Rights Council, in a report released today, finds: “The conflict in Syria has reached new levels of brutality. This report documents for the first time the systematic imposition of sieges, the use of chemical agents and forcible displacement. War crimes, crimes against humanity and gross human rights violations continue apace.”
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that samples taken from Syria and tested in France have confirmed that sarin gas has been used there multiple times.
The White House reaction? “We need more information” before acting.
If you are in Tehran or Damascus or anywhere else in the Middle East, the takeaway is that the United States may talk big and grudgingly ratchet up economic sanctions, but it will do no more, leaving the Iran-Russia-Syria alliance free to run amok. As for our allies, they’ve come to expect very little from this president.