Ephraim Sneh Headshot

Tickling Sanctions for Iran From the UN-- It's Now Up to Congress

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Secretary of State Clinton promised to impose "crippling sanctions" on Iran if it keeps cheating the international community and enriching uranium for a nuclear weapon.

However, the sanctions decided by the UN Security Council last week are tickling sanctions -- definitely not crippling ones. They annoy the Ayatollahs' regime, but they cannot bring about its end. They will not delay the Iranian nuclear project by one single day.

The main problem is that the sanctions do not effectively harm the Iranian energy industry, which is the regime's life artery. Iran's oil and gas industry enables the regime to govern. The UN sanctions, instead, focus on the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), on the nuclear project, and on the banking and shipping systems that directly support it. Moreover, countries that are not keen to impose those sanctions are not strictly obliged to do so. Actually, these are recommendations, not binding orders.

Sanctions which do not substantially undermine the financial basis of the regime do not impede the regime's ability to govern. Such sanctions cannot create a revolutionary situation in Iran that millions of protesters who courageously took to the streets aspire for. The moral support they received from the western democracies until now has been feeble and disappointing.

Iran's nuclear project runs on two parallel tracks: It produces large amounts of Low Enriched Uranium (LEU), and it manufactures a large number of centrifuges. When the Ayatollahs decide, many thousands of centrifuges, operating at high speed, will create Highly Enriched Uranium in quantities large enough to manufacture several nuclear bombs. The critical process in nuclear weapon building is the creation of fissile material. This is how Iran will obtain it.

A nuclear Iran is not a threat only for Israel. It is a threat for every state within range of its ballistic missiles. Today Delhi, Moscow and Athens are inside this range. In two years' time, when the next generation of Iranian ballistic missile will enter operational status, more capitals, including European, will join the club of threatened states.

But there is one country, Israel, which cannot live even one day under the shadow of an Iranian nuclear weapon. In my office, as in many offices and homes in Israel, decision-makers included, portraits of our grandparents killed by the Nazis hang on the walls. Israel, bearing this collective historic lesson, cannot allow those who twice a week declare that they will liquidate the Jewish state to have the means to do so. The Jewish people will not pay the price for the weakness of the West twice in 70 years.

Maybe we are paranoid. But, as Henry Kissinger said, "even a paranoid may have real enemies." We do have enemies who viscerally hate us, whether our policies are clever or stupid.

The UN Security Council resolution means that the international community actually acquiesces to a nuclear Iran. Israel is in a corner, and the international community is pushing us to act on our own. Regrettably, we were not wise enough to avoid being so isolated at the same time that we find ourselves in this corner. But our mistakes do not diminish our existential need to act.

The United States could not achieve a better UN resolution. In the current international situation, in a forum where Russia and China can cast a veto, where Brazil and Turkey can bluntly defy it, American diplomacy did its best. But the bottom line is that the Iranian nuclear project will not be stopped by these sanctions, and the regime in Teheran will survive.

There is still something that can be done. The US Congress's bipartisan Iranian Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (IRPSA), submitted by Congressman Howard Berman and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, is ready. The sanctions enshrined in IRPSA may cripple the Iranian energy industry, which bankrolls the Ayatollhas. It may bring the regime to its knees. IRPSA poses a clear choice to international corporations: With whom do you want to do business -- Iran or the US? If the traditional allies of United States and, most importantly, responsible European countries implement these sanctions, the regime in Teheran would not be able to govern. It would not be able to cruelly repress the Iranian people, export hatred and terror, and build nuclear weapons.

Voting for IRPSA and implementing it promptly is the last option left to promote peace, to free the Iranian people and to prevent war.