Commentary Magazine


Why Won’t Obama Follow in Britain’s Footsteps on Iran Bank Sanctions?

There has been some speculation that the sack of Britain’s embassy in Tehran by a mob almost certainly acting at the behest of the regime will lead to greater support in Europe for tougher sanctions on Iran. But given the steadfast opposition to any strengthening of the restrictions on dealing with Iran by Germany as well as by Russia, the odds that the international community will act in concert on this issue still seem slim. The real issue is not whether Europeans who do business with Iran will finally wake up to the danger posed by that country’s nuclear program. Rather, it has to do with the one nation that has been most vocal about sanctioning Iran and whose president has repeatedly vowed to stop the ayatollahs from gaining a nuclear weapon: the United States and President Barack Obama.

The attack on the embassy did not come out of the blue. It was a specific response to the United Kingdom’s decision last week to ban all transactions with Iran’s Central Bank. The Iranians know that if the West — especially the United States — deems such activity illegal, it will make it impossible for them to go on selling oil — which remains the lifeblood of their economy and the source of funds for their nuclear ambitions. Yet enacting such a ban is a step that the Obama administration has yet to take. Though the bank measure by itself will not bring Iran to its knees, it is fair to ask why the United States has failed to follow Britain’s example?

President Obama’s apologists claim he is a steadfast opponent of Iran and will keep his promise to prevent them from obtaining nukes. But his foolish attempts at “engagement” with Iran and feckless diplomatic initiatives have merely bought the Iranian scientists more time to achieve their goal. It’s bad enough that the administration has signaled it won’t use force and will seek to prevent Israel from doing so as well. But though America does a lot of talking about the need, as Secretary of State Clinton has said, for “crippling sanctions” on Iran, the U.S. hasn’t even enforced existing measures enacted to pressure Tehran to drop their nuclear program.

The frenzied Iranian reaction to Britain’s decision to halt transactions with their Central Bank is telling. It ought to convince Obama that worries about the reactions of other allies who still want to buy Iranian oil need to be ignored. The time is long past due for the United States to take this essential step. Until it does, the Iranians will be justified in thinking Obama isn’t serious about stopping them.

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