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02 April 2010

Iran and Sanctions

When Barack Obama arrived in Washington last year, there was limitless optimism. I remember watching a Jib-Jab.com original that accurately illustrated the hopes the rest of the world had for his administration. Afterall, Obama was replacing one of the most devisive Presidents in American history and promised change on myriad issues.

While Barack has already delivered on many of the promises he made during the campaign, the United States policy towards Iran needs some adjustment. The recent announcement that the United States and France would pursue another round (this will be the 4th) of UN sanctions against Iran is a mistake for a myriad reasons. Though Russia recently announced it would tacitly support this round of sanctions, China will not. China has veto power on the UN Security Council so any action will require their abstention or approval. Thus, any sanctions passed by the United Nations, no matter how bedizened with tough rhetoric, will be denuded and toothless.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will gleefully point out that the United States and France are hypocritical for allowing India, Pakistan, South Africa, and Israel to flout the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and acquire nuclear weapons (though South Africa has dismantled their weapons) while placing an immense amount of pressure on Iran, which is part of the NPT. This hugger-mugger approach to the NPT reeks of ambiguity, which will undoubtedly be exploited by the Iranian government. Ahmadinejad will also point out how Iran has in fact stuck to the letter of the law (if not its spirit) and the International Atomic Energy Agency has not yet found any evidence of a nuclear program. No matter how one feels about Iran and its current government, a new round of sanctions is a losing proposition.

Barack Obama initially hoped to engage the Iranian government. When this was rebuffed, the American administration sought to focus its energy on other issues, especially domestic ones. With the recent passage of the health-care bill, the Obama administration seems to be re-engaging in foreign affairs and on the issue of Iran's nuclear program. Sanctions are not the answer for this re-engagement. This sanctions policy will fail and give the Iranian government invaluable propaganda points. Instead, the Obama administration needs to engage the Iranian government and work with it if the United States is to have any influence on Iran's policies.

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