OTHER OPINION: Half-measures on Iran
The Obama administration pledged that Iran would suffer painful consequences for plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington and for refusing to freeze its nuclear program. Key European allies and Congress — not to mention Israel — are ready for decisive action. But on Monday the administration unveiled another series of half-steps. Sanctions were toughened on Iran’s oil industry, but there was no move to block its exports. The Iranian banking system was designated ”a primary money laundering concern,” a step U.S. officials said could prompt banks and companies around the world to cease doing business with the country. But the administration declined to directly sanction the central bank.
Congress is ahead of Mr. Obama, too. It’s likely that large bipartisan majorities will support legislation mandating sanctions against the central bank; in the Senate’s case it could be attached to the defense authorization bill. Another comprehensive sanctions bill, targeting both Iran and its ally Syria, could be brought to the Senate floor within a couple of weeks.
The administration’s slowness to embrace crippling sanctions is one of several persistent flaws in its Iran policy. Another is its continued insistence on the possibility of ”engagement” with a regime that has repeatedly rejected it while plotting murder in Washington. ”The United States is committed to engagement,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton asserted Monday. Some European officials say they are concerned by the concessions the administration appears prepared to offer Tehran if there are new talks.
By now it should be obvious that only regime change will stop the Iranian nuclear program. That means, at a minimum, the departure of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has repeatedly blocked efforts by other Iranian leaders to talk to the West.