Or it gets as close to admitting it as a publication that is a little too close to Obama Inc. can. But what exactly was the argument for the sanctions working to begin with?
Sanctions failed in North Korea and Iraq. And neither of those were fanatical theocracies. Since the sanctions don’t significantly impact the leadership and since a revolution in Iran was tried and failed… what exactly was the plan here?
There is no credible scenario under which sanctions would have worked. The plan to use them to bring Iran to the negotiating table just stretched out the same game that North Korea has been endlessly playing with the United States.
The official explanation was that we needed sanctions to get the Europeans, or Russia and China on board. The unofficial explanation is that sanctions are a sop that are meant to dampen criticism and slow down Iran’s nuclear program, without stopping it.
Harsh economic sanctions have taken a serious toll on Iran’s economy, but U.S. and European officials acknowledge that the measures have not yet produced the kind of public unrest that could force Iranian leaders to change their nuclear policies.
Nine months after Iran was hit with the toughest restrictions in its history, the nation’s economy appears to have settled into a slow, downward glide, hemorrhaging jobs and hard currency but appearing to be in no immediate danger of collapse, Western diplomats and analysts say.
At the same time, the hardships have not triggered significant domestic protests or produced a single concession by Iran on its nuclear program. Although weakened, Iran has resisted Western pressure through a combination of clever tactics, political repression and old-fashioned stubbornness, analysts say.
So in essence, Iran just refused to give in, but made vague offers that encouraged the sanctioners to think that their plan was working. It’s not really that “clever” unless you’re dealing with morons.
At the last round, in February, the United States and five other world powers offered significant new concessions to Iran in exchange for curtailment of its uranium-enrichment program, but Iran has neither accepted the proposal nor offered concessions of its own
Instead of the sanctions pressuring Iran into concessions, their failure is pressuring the United States into concessions.
Oh look, it’s history repeating itself.
Obama administration officials insist that the full effect of sanctions is not yet apparent, and they say Iran’s economic pain will deepen in the coming months. Still, U.S. and European officials and diplomats acknowledge that they are waiting for clear signs that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, is willing to change course.
Why would he change course?
Do these officials seriously imagine that Ayatollah Khamenei is hurting? Kim Jong Il and Saddam Hussein both got everything they wanted. I have no doubt that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is swimming hip deep in luxury Western products along with his entire family and all their friends.
Sanctions hit the Iranian working class and middle class. They don’t affect the people who actually run the country.
The Iranian leadership knows that it only has to hold out until it gets nuclear weapons. And then it’s game over. Why would it give up now just because Iranian factory workers can no longer afford to eat chicken?
This plan never made any sense. And it still doesn’t. If Iran’s leaders cared about their people, they wouldn’t treat them the way they do. The Ayatollah cares as much about the price of chicken as Kim Jong Il cared that his people were starving or Saddam Hussein cared about the lack of access to medicines.
“The Iranians look at sanctions in terms of popular unrest,” said Ray Takeyh, a former Obama adviser on Iran. “If there are not people on the streets, sanctions aren’t biting.”
The people went out into the street and got shot down. Any popular uprising has to be able to take on the Revolutionary Guard, which has its attention divided between Lebanon and Syria, but isn’t going to be any kind of pushover.
Forget the Arab Spring, this would likely take a civil war.
U.S. officials, meanwhile, have struggled to ease concerns among Iran’s oil customers, some of whom are growing increasingly frustrated with sanctions. Key allies, such as Japan and South Korea, have substantially curtailed imports of Iranian oil, but support for continued cutbacks has wavered in the absence of clear evidence that the sanctions imposed so far are changing Iran’s nuclear trajectory.
The United States has granted six-month exemptions to all 20 of Iran’s major oil buyers in return for pledges to reduce the amount they buy. Among the exempted countries are China and India, Iran’s No. 1 and No. 2 oil customers, respectively.
Iran has also found legal ways to soften the bite of sanctions, using currency reserves of euros in foreign banks and arranging complex financial deals that evade the U.S. banking system.
After the most recent tightening of sanctions last month, Tehran turned those restrictions partly to its advantage, congressional officials and Iran experts said. Under the rules, countries that import Iranian oil are allowed to continue the practice as long as they paid in local goods exported to Iran, rather than in the hard currency that Tehran desperately needs. The idea is to help key allies, some of whom are dependent on Iranian oil, to continue receiving shipments of crude while boosting their own economies by forcing Iran to buy their products.
Instead, Iran has used the imported goods — such as cars and air conditioners — to counteract high inflation at home, said a congressional staffer who tracks sanctions on Iran and who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence on Tehran’s economic policies. The imports help Iran conserve cash, which it uses to pay salaries and subsidize consumer prices to keep popular unrest at bay, the staffer said.
So again… sanctions have failed. The coalition is unraveling and this isn’t even working as containment. It’s time for Obama Inc. to admit that their containment/all options on the table gimmick isn’t working.