On the same day that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the General Assembly of the United Nations that time was running out to stop Iran’s nuclear program, a leaked report from Israel’s Foreign Ministry is being interpreted in some quarters as contradicting his stand. The report, first published in Haaretz and then recycled in the New York Times, is supposed to say that existing sanctions on Iran have caused a great deal of damage to the country. Combined with the fact that Israel’s diplomats have been campaigning for increasing the sanctions, some are concluding that not only does the document undermine Netanyahu’s warnings but that, contrary to what the prime minister and other Israelis have been saying, it is reasonable to believe that sanctions combined with diplomacy can solve the problem.
But the problem with such a conclusion is that, as even Haaretz notes, even if ordinary Iranians are feeling the economic pain brought on by sanctions, there is no evidence that the resolve of Iran’s leadership to push on with their nuclear project has been altered. Even more to the point, there is no contradiction between Netanyahu’s statements and a desire for increased sanctions. Indeed, his call for Western “red lines” — a point now made famous by his use of an illustration of a cartoon bomb across which he drew a “red line” — only makes sense if the West is ratcheting up sanctions and enforcing them.