Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Crippling Sanctions on Iran Are Best Way to Prevent Israeli Strike

You have to give French President Nicolas Sarkozy credit: So far, he’s the only international leader to demand the world put its money where its mouth is on Iran. For weeks, world leaders have been lining up to say how disastrous an Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be; indeed, as Jonathan noted last week, the Obama administration frequently seems more interested in preventing Israeli military action than in preventing Iran from getting the bomb. Yet Sarkozy is the first to take that opposition to its logical conclusion: If the world actually wants to prevent an Israeli strike, it needs to demonstrate that Iran’s nuclear program can be stopped without military action. And that means imposing truly crippling sanctions on Tehran.

The new sanctions announced by the U.S., Britain and Canada yesterday are all welcome; all will genuinely increase the pressure on Iran. But they fall well short of what Sarkozy proposed: for “the United States, Japan and Canada and other willing countries to take the decision to immediately freeze the assets of the Iranian Central Bank [and] stop purchases of Iranian oil.”

The U.S., for instance, declared Iran as “a jurisdiction of ‘primary money laundering concern’ under section 311 of the USA Patriot Act,” which will make it harder for Western financial institutions to do business with Iran. But it did not move directly against Iran’s Central Bank, which is what would really be necessary to shut down Iran’s financial lifeline. Britain ordered its financial institutions to stop doing business with Iran, but has reportedly decided against targeting Iran’s oil trade.

It could be that most Western countries genuinely consider a nuclear Iran preferable to the financial pain crippling sanctions would impose on them: Targeting Iran’s oil trade, for instance, would almost certainly raise the price of oil. But the consequences of an Israeli military strike could easily prove just as bad, and might well be worse, given that Iran has repeatedly threatened to retaliate not just against Israel, but also against the U.S. and other Western countries. And because most Israelis believe a nuclear Iran poses an existential threat to Israel, Israel isn’t likely to deem a nuclear Iran preferable to the financial and military consequences of a strike.

Thus, if world leaders really believe what they say about the negative consequences of Israeli military action, crippling sanctions, however financially painful, are the lesser of two evils. Sarkozy appears to have grasped that. The question now is whether anyone else will follow suit.



Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »





Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.