April 1, 2010- Weak Sanctions on Iran are Worse the None

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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

April 1, 2010- Why Weak Sanctions Are Worse Then None

The news in the last few days has been full of, supposedly hopeful, signs that the Chinese are willing to go along with sanctions against the Iranians. Unfortunately, this is probably not good news. The Chinese have agreed to engage in talks on Iranian sanctions. That "engagement" is not an agreement to impose strong sanctions on Iran, rather it is an agreement to start negotiating with the United States. What that means is that any agreement that might be reached will be meaningless.

There is a sense the US is ready to accept a nuclear armed Iran. It was interesting that in the Joint Press Conference yesterday with French President Sarkozy, President Obama mentioned his talks about Iran in passing, as part of a long list of items that were discussed. On the other hand, Sarkozy began his remarks with an impassioned speech to stop the Iranians. Sarkozy has clearly been an impassioned friend of Israel Though Sarkovy went on afterwards in his remarks to support President Obamaís call to stop building in East Jerusalem, his support of Israel still came through, while Obamaí detachment was equally visible. Of course, Obama gives a rather detached impression on most issues (more on that later). When pressed by a reporter, President Obama when pressed made it clear the US was working on imposing sanctions on Iran in the coming weeks, and not months. But imposing any sanctions seems to be dependent on getting the Chinese and Russians to agree. That means the sanctions will be toothless. The only way to get strong enough sanctions will be for the US and its European allies to declare them unilaterally. If the US and the Europeans force all companies that do business in Europe and the US to abide by those sanction, including cutting off international air traffic to Iran, the sanctions might be effective. However, such an unilateral act would go against the multilateral approach of the Obama administration. What all this comes down to, is the fact the West may be getting ready to accept the inevitability of the Iran getting the bomb. All you need to do is see the cover story in Foreign Affairs: ìAfter Iran gets the Bomb How Washington Can Limit the Damage From Iranís Nuclear Defiance†
†Their arguments make a certain amount of sense and include putting Israel under the US nuclear umbrella to enhance Israelís second strike capability. However, they miss one serious point, they assume that ultimately the leaders of Iran will act rationally. Unfortunately, as the Jewish people have learned anti-semitism is not rational. Hitlerís continuation of the death machine until the very end of the war was not rational, (not to suggest any part of it was). Therefore, to bet the very existence of Israel on a rational actor in Teheran, is not something Israel can afford to do. As a result, Israel is going to be forced to make some impossible choices in a few months. Unfortunately, through the actions of the Netanyahu government over the course of the past few months we have not seen a great deal of political effort to get ready for that fateful decision. Instead of working closely with President Obama on the Iranian problem during his visit Netanyahu got into a needless fight over housing in East Jerusalem. This is not to say that Obama is right. He is mostly wrong and has clearly missed the point. However, that is irrelevant. Israel is facing a fundamental and existential threat to its existence. Fighting over Israelís right to build in East Jerusalem is a needless distraction and a misreading on the part of President Obama. See two articles in Haaretz:

Netanyahu the politician shames Netanyahu the Statesman And "When Friends are Mad at you", by Efrain Sneh h

Finally, there was a fascinating article in yesterday's Financial Times: "US Foreign Policy: Waiting on a Sun King"http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/df53a396-3c2a-11df-b40c-00144feabdc0. html†The article describes a President that makes all foreign policy decisions. He has no Henry Kissenger doing strategy, its all him. Luckily, the article says he is meticulous and very bright and makes decisions in a deliberate thoughtful way. Unfortunately, the article points out what we all know... He came to the job with little experience in the field. That goes all the more so regarding the Middle East. On the Middle East policy he was no doubt influenced by Rashid Khaladi who was a colleague and friend from the University of Chicago (Someone who I can say from first-hand experience can sound very persuasive and moderate.) His closest advisors are Rahm Emmanuel and David Axelrod, not self-hating Jews by any stretch of the imagination, but people who would have been very comfortable voting for Meretz (the left wing Israeli poltical party) before the last intifada. The reality is that they, and the President support Israel, but see Netanyahu as the obstacle to peace. It's probably not fair to Netanyahu, even if he did form an impossibly right wing government, but thatís the reality. Israel cannot rely on Congress or American Jewry to change Obamaís mind; only Netanyhu can do that. And Netanyahu can only change Obama's mind by calling the Arab's bluff on peace. Is Netanyahu do that? I wish I was optimistic.

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