Not the Time to Squeeze Iran ( Reblogged)

English: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the current S...

English: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the current Supreme Leader of Iran. فارسی: تصویری از آیت الله العظمی سید علی خامنه‌ای (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the current S...

English: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the current Supreme Leader of Iran. فارسی: تصویری از آیت الله العظمی سید علی خامنه‌ای (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Deutsch: Seyyed Ali Chamenei an der Front. Auf...

Deutsch: Seyyed Ali Chamenei an der Front. Aufnahme vor dem Juni 1981 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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Published: November 15, 2013 124 Comments
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A rare opportunity for a diplomatic resolution to the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program is at risk because many lawmakers, urged on by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, are insisting that Congress impose tougher economic sanctions, perhaps next week as an amendment to the defense bill.

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Sanctions have been crucial in keeping the pressure on Iran. But doubling down on them at this delicate moment, when Iran and six major powers, including the United States, have made progress toward an interim agreement, could cause negotiations between the two sides to collapse and, worse, become a pathway to war.

Layers of sanctions, imposed separately since 2006 by the United Nations Security Council, the United States and Europe, have been largely responsible for moving Iran to the point of serious negotiations. Constrained from selling oil, its main moneymaker, and boxed out of the international financial system, Iran is reeling economically. Oil export earnings have fallen from a range between $110 billion and $120 billion annually to a range of $40 billion to $50 billion, of which about half is available to the government. Hassan Rouhani, elected president earlier this year, believes he has a popular mandate — as well as support from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader — to seek an easing of these sanctions through negotiations.

Even so, Israel, groups like the Washington, D.C.-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies and lawmakers like Senator Mark Kirk, Republican of Illinois, want to ratchet up the pressure. Their stated aim is to force Iran to completely dismantle its nuclear program.

From a Western perspective, that would be an ideal outcome. But new sanctions are unlikely to force Iran to abandon an enterprise in which it has invested billions of dollars and a great deal of national pride. Fresh sanctions would also shred whatever little good will the United States and Iran have begun to rekindle. If Tehran walks away from the talks, Washington will be blamed, the international unity supporting the network of sanctions already in place will unravel, and countries that have reduced imports of oil from Iran will find fewer reasons to continue doing so.

The Iranians could conclude that America is determined to overthrow their entire system, and, as a result, accelerate efforts to build a nuclear bomb. This, in turn, could end up leading to American military action (Mr. Obama has said Iran will not be allowed to acquire a weapon), engaging a war-weary America in yet another costly conflict and further destabilizing the region, while setting Iran’s nuclear program back by only a few years.

Iran has a deeply troubling record of hiding its nuclear program and displaying overt hostility to Israel. America and its allies are right to be skeptical of its promises. But the only rational course is to test Iran’s intentions through negotiations. Further, from what is known so far, the proposal on offer seems reasonable for each side. It would freeze major parts of Iran’s program for six months and allow some relief on sanctions, including access to about $10 billion in Iran’s frozen assets, while a more permanent deal is discussed.

Iran has already taken steps in that direction. On Thursday, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that since Mr. Rouhani took office in June, the country had virtually halted its previously rapid expansion of its uranium enrichment capacity.

President Obama deserves more time to work out a negotiated settlement with Iran and the other major powers. If the deals falls through, or if inspections by the United Nations unearth cheating, Congress can always impose more sanctions then. But if talks fail now, Mr. Netanyahu and the hard-line interest groups will own the failure, and the rest of us will pay the price.




A version of this editorial appears in print on November 16, 2013, on page A18 of the New York edition with the headline: Not the Time to Squeeze Iran.
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    • Shaw J. Dallal
    • New Hartford, N. Y. 13413
    NYT Pick

    Those lawmakers who are being “urged on by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel” to impose “tougher sanctions” against Iran are in fact “urged on” to sabotage “a negotiated settlement with Iran.”

    More ominously, these lawmakers are being used by Israel to recklessly goad the United States into a destructive war against Iran, a war that an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose, not only because it would be costly in treasure and in lives, but also because it would be against the vital national interests of the United States.

    In the long run, the United States will be better off negotiating with a potentially reasonable and amicably willing adversary than trusting a clearly treacherous, and dangerously destructive “ally.”

      • Mehdi
      • Iran
      NYT Pick

      Iranian president is willing to resolve problems with US and west especially on the nuclear issue. He has done some substantial steps, for instance engaging US in negotiations, he also did his best to keep hard-liners at the corner, and most recently, new agreement with IAEA for more control over the disputed nuclear sites; fortunately, the supreme leader of Iran supported the new diplomatic policy under the title of ” heroic flexibility”. In sum, it means that government can deal with west if they respect Iran’s right and dignity. The important fact is that the Iranian president would not be able to keep this atmosphere positive for a long time. It seems that 5 plus-1 are also interested to reach an agreement, but intervention by external powerful sources may ruin all efforts in the last minute.
      Imposing new sanctions at the peak of peace-loving negotiations will send enough message to the extremists that west is not serious to obtain result in talks. Actually, this congregational action would be the last nail in the coffin of talks! Those who pretend that they are going to make a good deal are actually looking eagerly to see the failure in diplomatic works. I wish president Obama does his best to overcome radicals viewpoints.
      This historical chance is not going to be repeated again. The final result of deal can be a safer and better life for many nations. The failure in peaceful talks leads to the spread of radicalism and extremism worldwide.

        • Otto
        • Winter Park, Florida
        NYT Pick

        Yes, a deal with Iran now would be very good thing, and a reasonable deal seems to be in reach. Those hoping to undermine the deal – Netanyahu of Israel, the government of Saudi Arabia and some misguided hardliners in the U.S. Congress – should not be allowed to derail a potential deal. Israel and Saudi Arabia have their own reasons for preferring to see Iran weakened by sanctions, and these reasons are not motivated by fears of a nuclear-armed Iran, which experts say is not in the cards anyway. Iran has not, since 2003 been seeking to develop a nuclear weapon. These rivals simply want to see Iran kept down, period. Our policies should not defer to the selfish, nationalistic interests of Israel or Saudi Arabia. The US, Iran, and the Middle East as a whole will be well served if we begin to normalize our relationship with Tehran.

          • Michael Stavsen
          • Ditmas Park, Brooklyn
          NYT Pick

          Iran agreed to the talks for one reason only, the sanctions were a gun to their head and they can’t live with them anymore. They are not in talks because they decided to rethink their policy towards the west.

          Business conducted by means of a gun to the head is not about either side achieving good will but about one party getting what it wants and the other getting the gun off his head. So lets not forget why Iran is sitting at the table. Remove the gun from its head and they achieve their objective.

            • alan Brown
            • new york, NY
            NYT Pick

            Those of us who favor tightening of sanctions do NOT want war. We want an end to nuclear proliferation. Inadequate sanctions for North Korea did not lead to war but did lead to a nuclear North Korea and ballistic missiles. After the recent round of interminable negotiations the President of Iran said enriching uranium is non-negotiable. Tightening sanctions will make that negotiable. President Obama may say everything is still on the table, including war. I say take that off the table and tighten sanctions. Another war in the Middle East is insane.

              • NoWay
              • Maine
              NYT Pick

              Exactly. This is Iran’s game to lose and it’s a win-win for the US. Should Iran renege on its promises, it will be exposed as untrustworthy globally and the US and its partners can ratchet up sanctions once again. The US will at least be viewed as giving diplomacy a chance and been savvy enough to show good faith until the end.

              If on the other hand, sanctions are increased at this very delicate juncture, as this editorial points out, it really places Iran in a difficult position especially at home to continue down this path. There is that thing called national pride.

              I hope our lawmakers continue to negotiate in good faith and with care and ignore the belligerent Israeli PM, Bibi and his supporters in Congress.

              With all due respect to the Jewish people & Israel, I’m highly offended by Mr. Netanyahu’s overt assault on our president and our foreign policy. Every American, no matter their political stripe, should feel insulted and exploited. Poll after poll shows that Americans don’t want another conflict and want to give diplomacy a chance. “52% of Likely Voters still favor a U.S. deal with Iran if Iran’s cooperation can be verified.” -Rasmussen Reports
              Clearly, Mr.Netanyahu doesn’t care what the American public thinks despite the fact it gives Israel billions every year in aid. By sabotaging these negotiations with such vengeance and so publicly reminds me a spoiled bully-brat who needs a long time out, disciplined and his privileges withdrawn.

                • Howard
                • Arlington VA
                NYT Pick

                Well said. The “Bomb Iran” hawks have started singing their song again.

                For what it’s worth, I think every discussion of the Iranian nuclear program should mention what happened to Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1954, just to show we understand why Iranians believe the United States wants to overthrow their government. (We did it then, and although we’ve forgotten about it, they haven’t.)

                It is also worth stating that no sovereign industrial nation can be prevented from building nuclear weapons. Period. Denying sovereignty is the only way to forcibly stop a national nuclear bomb program, and that means military invasion, conquest, and occupation – forever. No amount of bombing will do the trick, short of nuclear Armageddon.

                Finally, Iran has shared borders with three nuclear-armed nations: Russia, Pakistan, and Turkey (which is armed with U.S. nuclear weapons), and it is constantly being threatened by nuclear-armed Israel. Iran has plenty of incentive to at least appear qualified to join the neighborhood nuclear club. No nation has ever taken more than a few years to make its first nuclear weapon, once it made the decision to do it. Iran is clearly choosing not to apply for formal nuclear club membership, by detonating a bomb. Rewarding that restraint might be worth a try, especially in light of recent hopeful developments.

                  • Deryk Houston
                  • Victoria BC Canada
                  NYT Pick

                  Good article. Having said that, I also think it is a mistake to believe that the crippling sanctions have been a good tool for bringing the Iranian’s to the table.
                  The Iranians offered many of the concessions we see being offered now by the west a long time ago. We could have been here years ago if the west and Israel had admitted that Iran has the right to process it’s own fuel. Iran agreed to a much lower level of enrichment years ago also, but the west turned down that offer.
                  The sanctions are hurting the west as much as they are hurting Iran. High Fuel prices have been crippling Europe at a time it can least afford it. Huge business and economic losses are piling up for Europe as well because of these sanctions. The west is urgently trying to make this deal now because the pain of sanctions is ripping a hole in the Europe’s economy and America can see that the sanctions will break down anyway and countries will walk away from supporting them. This happened in Iraq as well. I was in Baghdad just before the last invasion there and it was clear massive trade deals were about to take place with the Russians and China.
                  Sanctions are viewed as a useful tool when in fact all they do is create hate and injuries for everyone concerned. Eventually the pain is too much and everyone crumples under the stress.
                  It is like shooting yourself in the foot.

                    • Applecounty
                    • England
                    NYT Pick

                    These negotiations with Iran are designed to fail, for that is what hawks in the American government want to happen. They do not want these talks to succeed. It is far more useful to American allies and the hawks in Washington for Iran to be a regional basket case. Easier to manipulate and control. Meanwhile the citizens of Iran continue to suffer under punitive sanctions and the effects of militaristic ambitions of their government. The appointment of a diplomat without an embassy to Tehran what is nothing more than a publicity stunt, which is a shame. Hopefully the nuclear issue can be resolved facilitating meaningful negociations to take place. It would also make it harder for the hawks to hide behind their excuses of protecting regional security.

                      • blackmamba
                      • IL
                      NYT Pick

                      America’s national interests and values rests with pushing the virtues of civil secular democracy and the elimination of all nuclear weapons from the Middle East. American values and interest are best served by diplomacy, humanitarian aid and commerce as the preferred option. American values and interests lie in peace except if there is a direct threat to attack or attack on America. And the military response should be just enough to crush and end and deter it from ever happening again.

                      Without provocation or invitation America has been engaged in covert and overt acts of war against Iran for 60 years. Israel has been a theocratic colonial apartheid state sponsor of terrorism with nuclear weapons for decades. Saudi Arabia is a royal theocratic autocracy that foments jihadi terrorists.

                      France is a master at losing battles and wars and in collaboration and proliferation. France gave nuclear weapons technology to Israel. Israel, unlike Iran, is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty nor the Chemical or Biological Weapons Convention.

                      Iran has become a theocracy in response to American, British and Israeli interference and intervention. Iran is a party to the NPT and has no nuclear weapons. Iran should be able to do everything under the NPT that any other member can do. Iran is a Shia Muslim Persian nation in the midst of Sunni Muslim Arabs, Turks and Kurds. Along with Coptic Orthodox Christians and Jews.

                      Iranians are rational. And Iran is not an occupier.

                        • Mr. Moderate
                        • Cleveland, OH
                        NYT Pick

                        Iran should be allowed to continue uranium enrichment to levels necessary for commercial and medical uses, but they must agree to dismantle their heavy water reactor which is currently under construction. In return for this, and the lifting of sanctions, Iran must agree to allow inspections of any duration, any time, any where, for any reason (or no reason at all). Resistance to this unrestricted inspections regime, after it is agreed upon, will be grounds for the re-imposition of sanctions and military action.

                          • Bevan Davies
                          • Maine
                          NYT Pick

                          Putting more pressure on Iran makes no sense. As signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, they have the right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. What would be more important is to establish a verifiable nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, thereby preventing other countries such as Saudi Arabia from working on their own nuclear programs.