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

 

In Gaza, Israel Must Try to Restore Deterrence While Avoiding War

Oct. 22 2018

Early Wednesday morning, a rocket fired from Gaza landed in the city of Beersheba, striking the courtyard of a home. (The woman who lived there, and her three children, barely escaped.) Israel responded swiftly with airstrikes, and the IDF reported that this weekend was the quietest along the Gaza separation fence since March 30, when the weekly riots there began. Yet some 10,000 Palestinians still gathered at the border, burning tires and throwing stones, grenades, and makeshift explosives at Israeli soldiers on the other side. Meanwhile, writes Eran Lerman, Jerusalem faces a difficult decision about how to proceed:

The smaller terrorist organizations in Gaza—Islamic Jihad, which operates as a satellite of Iran, and radical Sunni groups inspired by Islamic State—are the primary ones that want to ratchet up the violence into a full-scale war. For them, a major war in Gaza could be an opportunity to build themselves up on the ruins of Hamas. It also looks as if Iran, too, has an interest in escalating the situation in Gaza and pulling Israel into a war that will detract from its ability to focus on its main defense activity right now: keeping Iran from digging down in Syria.

The third player consistently working to worsen the situation in Gaza and torpedo Egypt’s efforts to broker a cease-fire is the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas, for whom—as he once said in Jenin— “the worse things are, the better.” . . .

All of these considerations are counterbalanced, paradoxically, by Hamas’s interest in continuing to dictate the terms of any cease-fire with Israel while refraining from a war, which the Hamas leadership knows would be self-destructive. Its moves to escalate the conflict—arson balloons, breaches of the border fence—have been intentionally selected as ways of taking things to the brink without toppling over into the abyss. . . .

And Israel? A harsh, well-defined blow is vital for it to maintain its mechanism of deterrence. A missile hitting Beersheba is not a trivial occurrence. However, as far as possible, and given the broader considerations of the regional balance of power as well as Israel’s fundamental interest in avoiding a ground war, it would be best to make the most of Egypt’s mediation.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Palestinian Authority