Commentary Magazine


Fearsome Iran Sanctions Just a Ruse

To read some accounts of the impact of the latest Western sanctions on Iran, you’d think the ayatollahs ought to be packing their bags for exile in Paris. Today’s front page feature in the New York Times about the Islamist regime using out-of-service tankers as storage facilities for all the oil they can no longer sell paints a dismal picture of the country’s economy. The story spoke of the squeeze being put on Iran and the prospect that more economic pain is in the offing as the effects of the sanctions start being felt. All of which ought to presage either the collapse of the government or a decision on the part of its leaders that discretion is the better part of valor when it comes to their nuclear ambitions.

But the colorful imagery of the tankers notwithstanding there was nothing in this piece or any other that would lead one to believe that the ayatollahs are really worried. And that’s a point that left-wing pundit Robert Dreyfuss makes all too clear in an article in The Diplomat. Though an Israel-hater like Dreyfuss being right about a Middle East issue is a case of the proverbial blind squirrel finding an acorn, he’s right when he notes that President Obama’s Iran sanctions policy has more of a feel of a ruse aimed at quieting the concerns of friends of Israel than an actual method of heading off the nuclear threat. Nobody in Washington really thinks the sanctions will work and that includes members of the administration which is touting their ability to make the Iranians give in.

It’s a sad fact that although the Iranian people are in for a rough time this year, the impact of the sanctions may involve nothing more than another round of belt-tightening for a nation all too used to having to put up with hardships since it came under the thumb of Islamic theocrats.

Dreyfuss also points out something you rarely read about on the front page of the Times. Though Iran’s exports are down, the granting of waivers to its biggest trading partners in China and India means that flow of cash into the ayatollah’s exchequer is reduced but still considerable. He quotes one analyst who points out that the $40 billion Iran will get in oil revenue this year is still twice as much that it got only a decade ago. While the administration is “huffing and puffing” like the Big Bad Wolf about what it is doing to Iran, it hasn’t escaped Dreyfuss’s attention — or that of Tehran — that President Obama and his foreign policy team have spent their entire term of office trying to “oppose, deflect, and tried to weaken sanctions legislation enacted by Congress.”

That these supposedly crippling sanctions on Iran are toothless is something that writers on both the left and the right are coming to realize. It’s just the administration and their cheerleaders who are still pretending as if they present a real threat to either the Iranian regime or its ability to keep investing in its nuclear program. U.S. policy toward Iran, is, like the sanctions exemptions granted to China, a “polite fiction” intended to kick the can down road until after November when a re-elected President Obama would then have the “flexibility” to back down from his pledges about stopping the nuclear threat.