In prior year, the agenda at AIPAC was divided between the issues surrounding the Palestinians and the peace process, along with the Iranian Nuclear threat. Not this year. Iran and only Iran was the subject on everyone’s minds.
Is the military option inevitable; Is there still time for sanctions to work. Trying to understand these issues better led me to attend the Panel Discussion on “Do sanctions work?” The Panelists included Congressman Howard Berman, the ranking minority member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Avi Jorisch, Director of the Red Cell Intelligence Group , and Stephen Rademaker, Former Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control.
There was much I did not know about. Sanctions against Iran were enacted into law as early as the Clinton years. Despite this, no sanctions were actually implemented under either President Clinton or Bush. The Obama administration has implanted sanctions, and , for the first time, obtained agreement from Europe to do the same. Iran, however, has not slowed down in its Nuclear program despite admitted impacts of the sanctions on its Economy. Does that mean the Sanctions have failed? The answer is …. Not necessarily, because there is much more that can be done.
The Panelists pointed out that it is easy to impose sanctions on your enemy, but if sanctions are to succeed they may have to be imposed on your friends. An example: The newest sanctions law tell Banks that if they do business with Iran, they cannot do business with America. But what if the offending Bank is French? Are we prepared to tell the French Government that we have outlawed one if its institutions from doing business in America. And if we obtain the agreement of all large economy countries not to buy Iranian oil… and the price of oil increases dramatically, are we prepared to pay $7 to $10 a gallon in order to implement this type of sanction.
The conclusion, I think, is that there remains a series of stronger, crippling sanctions, that would cause the total collapse of Iran’s economy and create the best chance for an end of the Nuclear program, without resort to military means. The question is whether the American public is willing to make the necessary sacrifice.
Jay J. Rice