Re-imposing Sanctions on Iran Won’t Be Enough

A number of restrictions on doing business with the Islamic Republic that had been suspended by the 2015 nuclear deal went back into effect this week, and more are on their way. While the American withdrawal from the agreement has already had a significant impact on Iran’s feeble economy, adding fuel to popular protests against the regime, Richard Goldberg argues that it won’t be enough to bring Tehran to its knees:

Sustained political warfare, robust military deterrence, and maximum economic pressure will all be necessary. Pressure will build steadily as our re-imposed sanctions take hold. . . . Sanctions, [however], are only effective if they are enforced. The sooner the Trump administration identifies a sanctions-evading bank and cuts it off from the international financial system, the sooner a global chilling effect will amplify the impact of American sanctions. The same goes for underwriters and gold-traders.

Beyond enforcement, the Trump administration will need key allies to implement this pressure campaign fully. The Saudis, under attack by Iranian missiles from Yemen, should be a willing partner in the effort to drive down Iran’s oil exports—ensuring Saudi production increases to replace Iranian contracts and stabilize the market. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain should also combine their market leverage to force European and Asian investors to choose between doing business in their countries and doing business in Iran.

President Trump will also need Europeans to act on one key issue which, given their opposition to his withdrawal from the deal, may present a diplomatic challenge. Under U.S. law, the president may impose sanctions on secure financial-messaging services—like the Brussels-based SWIFT service—if these services provide access to the Central Bank of Iran or other blacklisted Iranian banks.

In 2012, when Congress first proposed the idea, the European Union ordered SWIFT to disconnect Iranian banks, which closed a major loophole in U.S. sanctions. Now that Trump has left the deal, SWIFT must once again disconnect Iran’s central bank. If SWIFT refuses, Trump should consider imposing sanctions on the group’s board of directors. Trump’s Iran pivot from appeasement to pressure offers America the best chance to change fundamentally Iranian behavior and improve our national security.

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More about: Iran, Iran sanctions, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

No, Israelis and Palestinians Can’t Simply Sit Down and Solve the “Israel-Palestinian Conflict”

Jan. 17 2019

By “zooming out” from the blinkered perspective with which most Westerners see the affairs of the Jewish state, argues Matti Friedman, one can begin to see things the way Israelis do:

Many [in Israel] believe that an agreement signed by a Western-backed Palestinian leader in the West Bank won’t end the conflict, because it will wind up creating not a state but a power vacuum destined to be filled by intra-Muslim chaos, or Iranian proxies, or some combination of both. That’s exactly what has happened . . . in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. One of Israel’s nightmares is that the fragile monarchy in Jordan could follow its neighbors . . . into dissolution and into Iran’s orbit, which would mean that if Israel doesn’t hold the West Bank, an Iranian tank will be able to drive directly from Tehran to the outskirts of Tel Aviv. . . .

In the “Israeli-Palestinian” framing, with all other regional components obscured, an Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank seems like a good idea—“like a real-estate deal,” in President Trump’s formulation—if not a moral imperative. And if the regional context were peace, as it was in Northern Ireland, for example, a power vacuum could indeed be filled by calm.

But anyone using a wider lens sees that the actual context here is a complex, multifaceted war, or a set of linked wars, devastating this part of the world. The scope of this conflict is hard to grasp in fragmented news reports but easy to see if you pull out a map and look at Israel’s surroundings, from Libya through Syria and Iraq to Yemen.

The fault lines have little to do with Israel. They run between dictators and the people they’ve been oppressing for generations; between progressives and medievalists; between Sunnis and Shiites; between majority populations and minorities. If [Israel’s] small sub-war were somehow resolved, or even if Israel vanished tonight, the Middle East would remain the same volatile place it is now.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East