The potential for new U.S.-Iran sanctions has been lingering about for what seems to be a political eternity. If a month is a light year in politics, we could have sent astronauts to Mars and back at least twice by now. Media and Capitol Hill sources are now reporting that House leadership will move this week to appoint conferees to work with Senate counterparts on pending Iran sanctions legislation. While promising that Congressional leaders are focusing on moving product after more than a year of inactivity, it seems as if the “sanctions talisman” is going to be wielded without any additional measures other than sanctions.
Smart, strong, or robust sanctions alone will do little to change Iranian nuclear research activities or the regimes support of global terrorism. The Iranian regime has deftly dodged international pressure to cease seeking a nuclear weapon. It has repeatedly ignored multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions and has lied to international inspectors. In the process, they remain a few steps ahead of things and one step closer to a nuclear weapon.
The current legislative proposals that House and Senate conferees will attempt to reconcile primarily take aim at Iran’s energy sector. It should make it more difficult for global energy companies to continue doing business in Iran. There are also some promising divestment proposals. The measures could be much stronger and should include closing that pesky corporate foreign subsidiary loophole that seems to afford enough legal wiggle room for some U.S. and European companies to continue doing business with the mullahs.
At this juncture new sanctions are somewhat akin to an extra heaping of ice cream after two visits to a restaurant dessert bar – may taste good now, but will lead to certain indigestion later. New sanctions may help in the near term, but it is not get to the heart of the problem. Any talk of sanctions without other complimentary efforts to effectively thwart once and for all Iran’s nuclear program seems like a waste of time. Leaders can keep playing dodgeball about what to do next, but that level of uncertainty is bad for security and bad for business. It will weaken the very sanctions the conferees will take up soon.