Yesterday, the Bush administration announced a broad package of sanctions against Iran in an attempt to boost its campaign to stop Tehran’s nuclear program by non-military means. The reactions were revealing, though not unpredictable.
Many Democrats expressed concern that the sanctions signal the run-up to war. Thus, Sen. Robert Byrd said that Bush’s actions “echo the chest-pounding rhetoric which preceded the invasion of Iraq.”
Argument by reminiscence is never very persuasive, least of all when, as here, the reminiscence is faulty. In the case of Iraq, the administration made clear its intention to attack if its conditions were not satisfied. Here, as the Washington Post editorial board observes, there is no evidence that Bush “has decided on war.” It’s also worth noting that if the administration takes military action against Iran, it surely will bear no resemblance to the ground invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq.
The Post’s reaction is to commend the imposition of new sanctions as “the best way to avoid military action.” Past measures — negoitations by the Europeans, U.N. Security Council resolutions, and weak multilateral sanctions — have all been ineffective. The new sanctions are designed to curtail Iran’s access to the international banking system and to deter non-American companies from doing business with Iran. As such, one can argue that they at least offer some prospect of causing Iran to reconsider its course which, in turn, would ensure that there is no war.
Nonetheless, I fear that the most cogent reaction to the new sanctions came from their intended target, the Iranian government. It said, “The hostile policies of America. . .have no value. Such policies have always failed.”
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