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How Appeasement Works: Slowly, With A Month Here And A Month There

Tuesday, September 29, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

From the Wall Street Journal’s write up on the debate over which sanctions to impose on Iran, and when:

European officials stressed Monday they are likely to seriously consider new sanctions only at year-end, citing a December deadline, replacing President Barack Obama’s September deadline, that has now been set to see if diplomacy with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad works.

The aricle is specific only on those sanctions which won’t be imposed:

ban on gasoline sales also is difficult to get through the Security Council because Chinese state companies this month began providing up to one-third of sales to Iran, filling in the market vacated by BP and Reliance of India.

A total embargo on Iranian oil — which Israeli officials have suggested — seems unlikely. U.S. law already forbids U.S. firms from buying Iranian oil, but Europe, Japan and China are big customers. Analysts say an embargo on Iranian oil would drive up prices and damage the global economy, unless a big producer such as Saudi Arabia made up the difference — about 3% of world supply.

A U.N. tightening of an arms import ban on Iran would run up against the interests of a powerful sector of the Russian economy. “A lot of larger contractors in those sectors of the Russian economy don’t have necessarily other extensive markets that they can easily go to,” said Paul Saunders, executive director of the Nixon Center in Washington.

Because the Obama Adminsitration is not credible on the idea that it would ever use the military option, other nations reluctant to hurt their own economic interests don’t worry about blocking lower level sanctions. They don’t have to worry about America escalating the confrontation because it is President Obama they are dealing with, and he cannot even bring himself to meet with his Afgan commander more than once in two-and-a-half months.

Already the voices urging a de facto surrender to Iran’s ambitions are surfacing in the usual palces –the editorial pages of the New York Times for example. “[T]he administration should seek a strategic realignment with Iran as thoroughgoing as that effected by Nixon with China,” write Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett in today’s paper, barely 72 hours after the president and his British and French allies demanded Iran comply with international law.

Secretary Gates has said that military action against Iran will only buy time, but time may be Israel’s best ally right now as it watches the world roll over in a surprisingly swift resignation to the inevitability of Iranian nuclear weapons.

The lead editorial in today’s Jerusalem Post calls for a response similar to that imposed on Cuba in 1962:

Iran’s stratagem is to “engage” as it pushes ahead with its bomb, thereby making it hard for the international community to impose meaningful sanctions. Once it feels certain it has all the pieces of the nuclear weapon’s puzzle in place – fuel, warhead, delivery system – it might offer Obama a stop just short of a test detonation, in return for a long list of Western concessions.

Anyway, the pace of economic sanctions is way out of sync with the progress the mullahs are making on their bomb. Even if Russia and China accepted a winter embargo on refined petroleum products entering Iran, is there any reason to imagine that the mere discomfort of the Iranian masses would take precedence for Khameini and Ahmadinejad over the bomb?

Obama should leapfrog over futile intermediate steps and place draconian sanctions on the table, now. To paraphrase John Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis, this would mean that all ships and planes bound for Iran, from whatever nation, would be turned back.

Perhaps this prospect, coupled with a complete land, sea and air quarantine, can influence Iran’s leaders to rethink their one-step-forward-two-steps-back strategy, and save humanity from an Iranian bomb.

Alas, President Obama wants very much to look and sound like President Kennedy, but it is highly unlikely that he will be acting like him anytime soon. The appeasers don’t want to force a confrontation over Israeli security, so if Israel genuinely fears the Iranian bomb on Iranian missiles –or some lesser WMD made in the secret facilites of Iran and smuggled via Syria to the Hezbollah forces on Israel’s northern border– it will have to arrange for the remedy by itself. And soon.

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