Sanctions Increase on Iran Despite Little Proof to Justify the Added Burden

Additional sanctions on Iran came into effect this week and we must still ask the question as to what the reasoning is for the increase?  What exactly has Iran done to deserve the increase and does this really get the world closer to a long-term resolution between them and the West?  Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman points out:

“Removing sanctions would count as a confidence-building measure and can assist in a resolution of the issue but increasing sanctions would have no result, apart from making the issue more complex and harder to resolve,” he said.

Keep looking…

Frankly, it’s a fair point.  If we truly want Iran to come to the negotiating table with an open mind and prepared to work with the P5+1, adding more sanctions is probably not going to get us anywhere since none of the previous sanctions have done the job.

It was also revealed Iran has been purchasing a high grade of alumina ore from Europe which has some military uses and which also proves very little in terms of their nuclear ambitions.  (This week’s sanctions are supposed to close this door as well.)  With the lack of evidence Iran is pursuing nuclear materials for weapons purposes the additional penalties are coming for reasons that seem unclear, other than to have a political boogeyman to scare people with as I’ve pointed out before.

Advocates for more sanctions might point out Iran has sent arms to the Syrian regime and Hezbollah for use in the ongoing civil war.  This may be considered bad behavior but there are two problems with wanting to penalize them for this action.

The first is that Russia was arming Assad as well.  That being said, if you are going to enact penalties on Iran for doing it, wouldn’t we need to impose equal penalties on Russia?  In fact, my guess would be the arms coming from Russia are probably a higher quality than those of Iran so wouldn’t the penalties need to be even more restrictive?

The second is the U.S. is now arming the rebels in Syria.  From an objective perspective, wouldn’t this open the door for Iran to call for sanctions against the U.S. for arming an opponent they don’t like?  That may sound silly but if we step away and just look at the situation from the outside, it’s a valid question.

Rumblings for Fair Negotiations with Iran Increasing

More and more people are seeing what should’ve been plainly obvious to everyone by now: sanctions on Iran have failed to bring a solution to the situation and a very different route is needed.

An article on the CSM’s site today shows the growing call from various groups studying the situation to change tactics and present more lucrative packages to Iran in exchange for more transparency in their nuclear program.  In other words, it’s time to start offering to get rid of sanctions on Iran so they will be more open with their facilities.

Time for the U.S. to make a real offer to this man despite what we have been led to believe.

One of the biggest problems pointed out in the article is that sanctions are what the U.S. ‘knows’ in terms of dealing with countries deemed adversaries and calling for more benevolent policies are politically difficult.  No one wants to be the politician saying we need to offer real relief to Iran because opponents will use that against them even though it would likely bring about a successful end to the situation.

And Iran’s leadership can’t cave in to sanctions either or they look weak to their people.  As pointed out in the piece:

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated in February that pressure and sanctions are akin to the US “pointing a gun at Iran and say[ing] either negotiate or we will shoot.” In March, Khamenei said, “if the Americans sincerely want” to resolve the nuclear issue “they should stop being hostile towards the Iranian nation in words and in action.”

So, we have reached this point where two bulls are running at each other and one has to give.  And considering what has transpired, it would seem the U.S. is the one that has to bend.

Iran’s leader has called for a fatwa against making nuclear weapons.  The U.S. has admitted it has no intelligence suggesting Iran is pursuing nuclear technology for weapons purposes.  Iran also reduced its stockpile of material that could be converted into weapons recently showing it is moving in the direction apparently wanted by the rest of the world.

Iran has seemingly done what it needs to do in terms of showing the world it is ready for the sanctions to be lifted.  Now is the time for the United States to do what more people are recognizing is the solution: offer real relief on the sanctions and treat Iran as their actions have shown they should be treated.

Even some from the usually hawkish right see this as the solution.  From the piece:

“I think the answer is probably pretty simple. We’re going to have to sweeten the offer on sanctions relief,” former US assistant secretary of state under the George W. Bush administration and veteran troubleshooter James Dobbins said at the report launch. Sanctions should be suspended, not dropped, he said, until Iran also demonstrates it can hold to its side of any bargain.

The time for change has come.  The question now is: has the will for change made its way to the top levels of the U.S. government yet?

The West’s Failed Dealings With Iran Continues

The foreign policy debacle that is the West versus Iran continues as both sides plan to meet in Kazakhstan next week to discuss Iran’s nuclear enrichment goals.  The countries trying to stop Iran’s activities are preparing to offer what they call “a substantial and serious” deal hoping to get their way with the Middle Eastern nation.  Just one problem: they already know Iran isn’t interested in their offer.  As reported by Reuters:

Western officials in Washington have told Reuters they plan to offer to ease sanctions barring trade in gold and other precious metals in return for Iran shutting its Fordow uranium enrichment plant – a proposal already rejected by Tehran.

So, the plan is to put something we know will be rejected on the table in order to look like we are trying to negotiate fairly.  This, of course, comes after more economic sanctions have been imposed by the United States.  Hard to see why a country wouldn’t want to jump at an offer they don’t want after being treated even worse in the meantime.

Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Kidding front and center, the West uses its tried and true method of economic sanctions expecting it will bring about the demise of the Iranian government and install a new regime more friendly to the United States.  Economic sanctions have been so successful in the past there really should be no other way even suggested when trying to convince a foreign country to run their government the way the people who don’t live there want it operated.  Just look at how quickly the trade embargo on Cuba took Fidel Castro out of power.  Five meager decades and boom!  A new revolution in Cuba sweeps into power headed by longtime guy-on-the-opposing-side…Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother.  See how well it works!

And how are those sanctions now working in Iran?  Well…they’re not.  Some highlights from Reuters’ report on Iran’s economy:

Shops in the Iranian capital are crowded. Finding a seat at good restaurants can be difficult. And the ski resorts in the mountains north of Tehran continue to attract Tehran’s glamorous and well-heeled.  “The economy has problems with the sanctions, yes. But it’s still working,” he says. “It isn’t as bad as people outside the country think.”

“The government had a long time to prepare for economic war,” said Mohammad Ali Shabani, an Iranian political analyst based in London. “If you’re talking about collapse, that is not happening.”

Iranians seeking to escape inflation and unable to move their money out of the country are building new homes, boosting the construction and carpentry industries.  These mini-booms are reflected in flashy new cars cruising Tehran’s streets and luxury apartments going up in its affluent neighborhoods. The stock market hit a record high this week.

All of this sounds bad.  But that’s not the worst part:

The rial’s depreciation has halved the savings of the middle class and destroyed some of their businesses, but “those at the top and bottom of the pyramid haven’t seen a dramatic amount of change”…This uneven distribution of the pain of sanctions is why, for Washington, they could prove counter-productive: they are doing most damage to a group that might be expected to push for political change in Iran.

Ouch!  All of this coupled with the fact that we still have no hard evidence showing Iran is pursuing nuclear enrichment for anything other than peaceful medical research purposes. In fact, Iran has restarted the conversion of more of its stockpile in a way that makes it harder to create weapons in recent months, an act the West should view as rather conciliatory given the sequence of events.  As noted by Julian Borger’s security blog at the Guardian:

At the time of the last IAEA report three months ago, Iran had a stockpile of nearly 135kg of 20% uranium and that figure was growing fast because it had stopped converting a portion of its production into uranium oxide powder for use as reactor fuel. That conversion resumed on December 2, the IAEA reports, and 28% was taken away from the 20% stockpile between in the two months since. Once it is converted into powder, it becomes much less of a proliferation concern.

This is not to say we shouldn’t be mindful of Iran’s actions.  As with all nuclear material around the globe we should keep a close eye on it regardless of where it is located, which is what is happening.  But if the West wants to negotiate with Iran, it appears it will have to do so on more of an equal ground instead of the talking down to the country that has been done for many years.

From an outside observer’s perspective, Iran has not backed-down to the West’s threats and it appears they have no immediate reason to do so.  They have stood their ground and have tried to show they are wanting the material for peaceful means.  It is time for the West to get serious about dealing with Iran if it wants to continue working with the country and closely watching its nuclear program through groups such as the IAEA.