Iran sanctions send a message but don’t go far enough

The world must enact tougher sanctions against Iran, or catastrophe will be inevitable.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)
The announcement Monday of an unprecedented wave of economic sanctions against Iran by the United States, England and Canada – as well as France’s and the EU’s call for intensified European action – is to be welcomed, but will it be enough to dampen the tinderbox that is Iran’s nuclear program?
The growing tide of international pressure follows a report released by the International Atomic Energy Agency on November 8 that confirmed the Iranians were pursuing a secret nuclear military program. The report said that the IAEA was “becoming increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”
The new measures set out in Executive Order 13590, signed by US President Barack Obama, are designed to persuade Iran to halt this potential catastrophe by severely disrupting the flow of technical supplies, fuel and finance into the Iranian energy industry, thereby crippling the country’s economy.
The new measures expand existing sanctions already in place aimed at targeting the supply of goods, services, technology or financial support to Iran for the development of its petroleum resources and petrochemical industry. The US-based assets of eleven individuals and entities identified as playing a key role in Iran’s WMD program have been frozen and US citizens are prohibited from engaging in any transactions with them.
In addition, the Islamic Republic of Iran is now identified as a jurisdiction of “primary money laundering concern” under section 311 of the USA Patriot Act. This means that the US Treasury has, for the first time, identified the entire Iranian financial sector – including Iran’s central bank and private Iranian banks, including their branches and subsidiaries operating outside of the country – as posing a risk to the global financial system.
The sanctions announced by Britain and Canada are no less serious. Canada has now banned all financial transactions with Iran and has increased its list of banned Iranian companies from 279 to 345. The list includes banks, aviation, nuclear research firms and cement companies. Banned individuals include the leadership of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Iranian central bank. Britain has ordered all of its financial institutions to halt transactions with their Iranian counterparts, including the Iranian central bank.
The European Union is expected to announce its own measures at the beginning of December. France has urged all nations to impose “sanctions on an unprecedented scale,” including a freeze on Iranian assets abroad and the immediate suspension of purchases of Iranian oil.
These measures should be loudly applauded. Iran's continued defiance of the international community proves that the US and its allies need to quickly and significantly ramp up the pressure on Tehran’s regime to changing course and abandon its nuclear weapons program.
But the measures announced up to this point will not be enough to achieve their aim.
The need for comprehensive sanctions against Iran's central bank was not included in the US announcement. Such sanctions are an important and decisive step to isolate Iran and must be imposed.
In addition, the sanctions must be followed up with firm action by Western governments against their own citizens who evade these measures. German companies, in particular, have continued to trade with Iran, even as it was clear that technology supplied by Siemens, among others, was being used to develop nuclear capabilities.
No less than four rounds of sanctions have been imposed on Iran by the UN Security Council since 2006, to little effect. Russia and China have now vetoed any further action on the UN’s part. The free world, it seems, must go it alone.
The international community must realize that Iran is governed by ideological revolutionaries, not level-headed bureaucrats. They must also be aware that these sanctions are not meant to hurt the Iranian public, who are living under the yoke of a fundamentalist, tyrannical regime.
But in their mad dash to acquire weapons of mass destruction, the Iranian leadership does not seem to care if their country’s economy is wrecked, their financial institutions crippled and their citizens isolated from the rest of the world.
"If our people feel that enemies want to deprive them of their rights by threatening, bullying and adopting illegal and irrational methods, they will pursue the path that they have taken, more united and more determined than ever," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters in Tehran.
And while the world imposes sanctions on Iranian oil, they are ignoring Iran’s major export: Terrorism. Even without nuclear weapons, Iran’s terror industry has wreaked havoc in Iraq, Lebanon and Gaza. Iranian agents masterminded massive bombings in Argentina and are busy running illegal drug and money-laundering operations throughout Central America.
Soon, Iran will have nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles capable of carrying their deadly payload deep into Europe and Africa.
The new sanctions will help with Iran, but still more must be done to enforce existing sanctions and to add even more. The clock is ticking and time is running out.
The writer is the Executive Director of Global Affairs for The Israel Project, an organization that brings facts about the Middle East to the press, public and policymakers.