Iran sanctions 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The sanctions imposed on Iran by the UN, EU and US have always looked better on paper than in real life.
Their major underlying flaw – not the only one by any means – is the probability that not everyone will adhere to them.
In some cases – such as Venezuela, Syria and lately Turkey – this may be
a matter of provocative defiance. In another category are countries
less ideologically confrontational but with various economic and
geopolitical axes to grind. These include, first and foremost, Russia,
along with a host of former USSR components, and China and other East
Most galling, however, is the behavior of certain European democracies
such as Switzerland which, for their own good, should be in the vanguard
of the struggle to defend free world interests against a rogue regime
with nuclear ambitions.
It’s bad enough that this struggle is limited to hardly adequate
measures. But that makes it all the more imperative that western
democracies, at the very least, do their utmost to meticulously abide by
these strictures. Otherwise, they are a lost cause to begin with and
little more than a cover-up for scandalous and self-defeating inaction.
Just as the Western powers are haltingly ratcheting up their sanctions,
to take a highly relevant case in point, the Swiss energy giant
Elektrizitätsgesellschaft Laufenburg (EGL) is threatening to help render
these very sanctions mere hollow declarations. Its major 25-year gas
contract, signed two years ago, to import over 5 billion cubic meters
annually of Iranian gas valued at 18 billion Euros, far from being
abandoned, is now all-systems-go, with a projected pipeline to ferry the
fuel via Turkey.
This isn’t the private vagary of an insubordinate firm. It was sponsored
with fanfare by the Swiss government itself. Foreign Minister Micheline
Calmy-Rey mounted a pilgrimage to Iran to “witness” the signing of that
momentous gas-supply contract. Sporting a sheer white head scarf, she
accorded the transaction her government’s official stamp of approval and
lent the occasion high profile, prestige and legitimacy.
At that very time, the new Swiss Ambassador Walter Haffner was
presenting his credentials in Israel, and he faced a dressing-down by
the Foreign Ministry’s Western European Desk chief for representing a
country doing business with Iran. Calmy-Rey responded: “Switzerland is
an independent country which has its own strategic interests to defend.”
A year later, Israel temporarily recalled its ambassador to Bern after
Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz hobnobbed with Iranian leader Mahmoud
Ahmedinejad and, in so doing, in Jerusalem’s view, sent rather the wrong
message to those calling for Israel’s annihilation.
More recently the Swiss government issued contradictory statements on the export of nuclear pressure gauges to Teheran.
Switzerland’s lax export-control regulations have combined with a
gung-ho pro-Iran trade policy to undermine international efforts to
compel Teheran to suspend its nuclear enrichment program.
THE US has already imposed a $536 million fine on Swiss banking giant
Credit Suisse for violating US prohibitions on business with Iran. Now
EGL is in the sights of American congressional probes and, pending
investigation, might find itself on the US sanctions blacklist.
When asked by The Jerusalem Post this week about whether the deal may
dent international sanctions provisions, EGL spokeswoman Lilly Frei
responded that EGL conforms to “local laws and [the rules of the]
international community…We have a contract with the company, not [with]
Ahmadinejad,” she said.
Plainly, this is a cynical feigning of innocence. It cannot be that
business would be countenanced with every Iranian firm whose board of
directors isn’t chaired by Ahmadinejad.
There is ample cause to suspect that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard
Corps is affiliated with the National Iranian Gas Export Company. But
even that needn’t be the touchstone.
Sanctions are imposed to make it difficult for a regime which
inordinately endangers world peace to carry on unhindered. That is the
logic. Money is fungible. Whatever enriches Iranian coffers – especially
given the tyrannical nature of the regime – can, even if not directly,
help fund terror and/or help Teheran to proceed with nuclear weapons
The Swiss aren’t that naive. They know the score perfectly well. They
should not make fools of the rest of the world. They should know better
than to undermine what are ultimately free world interests, most
emphatically including their own.