Switzerland, a pivotal banking giant and one under whose aegis much
international trade is transacted, is crucial in imposing meaningful sanctions
on Iran. Swiss dillydallying can do proportionally greater harm than
equivocation on part of other states the same size.
Swiss have long failed to put their money where their mouth often is. They
persist in doing the wrong thing – or in not doing the right thing – despite
Last week, we were informed that while Switzerland has
purportedly extended financial sanctions against Tehran, it stopped short of
freezing the assets of the ayatollahs’ central bank and of imposing an oil
embargo in line with actions taken by other Western powers in view of Iran’s
ongoing nuclear project.
The Swiss Federal Council did freeze the assets
of eight Iranian firms and three Iranian individuals but it did not extend its
sanctions to the Iranian central bank, because, in the words of the Swiss
Economics Ministry, that bank “is important for the Iranian economy.”
that is precisely the logic of sanctions – to hit Tehran where it hurts, not to
lightly rap it on the wrist. The word from Bern is that it would
reconsider at a “later date” whether to ramp up its sanctions.
bad news, because Switzerland is not one of Iran’s dubious autocratic hangers-on
such as Venezuela or Syria, and it is not a Russian or Chinese ally. Hedging on
sanctions by seemingly enlightened Western governments underscores why these
sanctions – imposed by both the EU and US – have always looked better on paper
than in the real here-and-now.
Their major flaw – hardly the only one –
is the probability that not everyone will adhere to them.
talking about blatant, provocative defiance, as in the cases of Iran’s circle of
best friends, nor of countries less ideologically confrontational but with
various economic and geopolitical axes to grind (such as Russia along with a
host of former USSR components, China and other East Asian
European democracies – like Switzerland – should for their own
good be in the vanguard of the struggle to defend Free World interests against a
rogue regime with nuclear ambitions. Currently this struggle is limited to
doubtfully adequate measures, making it all the more imperative that Western
democracies do their utmost to meticulously abide – at the very least – by these
feeble strictures. Otherwise, they are a lost cause and little more than a
cover-up for scandalous inaction.
Switzerland imports Iranian oil
indirectly, but Swiss energy giant Elektrizitätsgesellschaft Laufenburg had
proceeded with a projected pipeline to transport the fuel via Turkey. Previously
it signed a mega-deal to import more than 5 billion cubic meters annually of
Iranian gas valued at 18 billion euros.
This wasn’t the private vagary of
an insubordinate firm. It was sponsored with fanfare by the Swiss government
itself. Then-foreign minister Micheline Calmy-Rey mounted a pilgrimage to Iran
to “witness” the 2008 signing of that momentous gas-supply
contract. Sporting a sheer white head scarf, she accorded the transaction
her government’s stamp of approval and lent the occasion high profile, prestige
An unrepentant Calmy-Rey intoned that that “Switzerland
is an independent country which has its own strategic interests to
To this must be added Switzerland’s prolific lip service to its
much-vaunted neutrality. It is imperative, especially considering Switzerland’s
sullied World War II history, for it to stay mindful that neutrality cannot
possibly justify inaction in the face of evil. In such circumstances, the claim
of neutrality facilitates evil, such as Iran’s genocidal plot. Inaction can be
tantamount to complicity.
Sanctions are imposed to make it difficult for
a regime that endangers world peace to carry on unhindered. That is their
objective. Money is fungible. Whatever isn’t denied Tehran – given the
tyrannical nature of the regime – could well go to funding terrorism or nuclear
The Swiss are not that naive. They are nobody’s
fools. They should not make fools of the rest of the world.