Influential report questions the wisdom of the sanctions regime

by Glenn Greenwald (source: The Guardian)
Thursday, April 18, 2013

A report from a bipartisan cast of official Washington was issued today, this one on the Obama administration's Iran policy. Although it affirms the DC convention that Iran is some sort of serious threat to the US - a prerequisite for being viewed as Serious among its target audience - it surprisingly, and quite cogently, calls into serious question the wisdom of the sanctions regime imposed by the US.

As this good New York Times summary of the report notes, the report explains that sanctions have "contributed to an increase in repression and corruption within Iran" and "may be sowing the seeds of long-term alienation between the Iranian people and the United States".

The most important conclusion is that Obama must rely far less on bluster, threats and sanctions - none of which is likely to achieve anything - and instead do far more to engage the Iranians and find a negotiated settlement to the multiple issues between the two countries. That is the same conclusion publicly advocated by Obama's own former Iran adviser Vali Nasr, who has harshly criticized the president for failing to engage in real diplomacy with Tehran, as well as former national security officials Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett. That these same warnings now issue from such an establishment group as the one that produced this report is a compelling sign of just how misguided Obama policy has been. That does not, of course, mean, that he can or will change it. That's because, as Foreign Policy Community maven Les Gelb recently explained in the Daily Beast, what drives Iran policy more than anything else is this:

"Administration officials would never admit it, but the main reason for their being tougher on Iran than North Korea seems tied to American domestic politics as much as or more than anything else, specifically the standing of Israel and oil versus Korea and Japan. On strictly foreign-policy and national-security grounds, Democratic and Republican officials surely regard Seoul and Tokyo as important as the Mideast, certainly now with the growing importance of Asia. In American politics, however, Israel and oil count for much, much more. It's notable that President Obama made his strongest pronouncements about employing force to stop Iranian nukes at the annual meeting of AIPAC, the very potent group of American-Jewish backers of Israel."

Still, the more light shined on the fact that US belligerence toward Iran helps only Israel and hurts the US, the better.


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