Published by the Jewish Journal on July 26, 2010
Now that President Obama has finally signed into law additional sanctions aimed at stopping Iran's nuclear weapons program, will the sanctions work?
One key to that question is whether the President allows all the sanctions in the new law to take effect or if he will use the considerable waiver authority the White House insisted upon before giving the green light to Congress for the sanction bill's final passage in June.
The new law depends heavily on the willingness of the White House to fully implement it. There is considerable doubt about this since no U.S. Administration has fully implemented the previous sanctions on Iran in place since 1996.
The new sanctions bill focuses on companies that do business with Iran's petroleum and natural gas industries. The bill also could prohibit the U.S. banking system from dealing with international financial institutions that do business with Iran's Revolutionary Guard or in any way help Iran to build weapons of mass destruction or assist Iran in its support for terrorism.
The new law, however, allows the President to waive these provisions just by stating that doing so is "necessary to the national interest."
Unlike previous waiver authority, the new law does require the White House to report the names of any companies believed to be in violation of the energy provisions of the law, limits the waiver to 12 months, and requires that the Administration spell out which national interests could be impacted. Nevertheless, the political costs involved would not necessarily stop the Administration from issuing the waivers.
The other key ingredient to the success of the new sanctions is timing. Several, including Central Intelligence Director Leon Panetta, have said sanctions, no matter how strong, may be too late.
Director Panetta recently told ABC's This Week that Iran already had enough enriched uranium to build two nuclear bombs and could build those weapons within the next two years. He acknowledged that Israeli intelligence believes Iran is on an even a faster track toward nuclear weapons and could achieve deployable nuclear weapons in the next 12 months.
"Those sanctions will have some impact It could help weaken the regime. It could create some serious economic problems," Panetta said. "Will it deter them from their ambitions with regards to nuclear capacity? Probably not."
If that is the case, the United States needs a backup plan in place if Tehran is undeterred. A crucial element of U.S. policy must be to emphasize that all U.S. options are on the table to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear warheads.
Military force is the last thing anyone would want to employ. But to unilaterally declare it off limits would make the diplomatic and economic pressure that might succeed impossible.
The stakes could not be higher for the United States. While Tehran has been bellicose in threatening its neighbor, our ally Israel, Iran is clearly focused on the United States. The U.S., after all, is what Iran calls the "great Satan." Israel is referred to by Iran as the "small Satan."
Iran's objective is not only to be a regional power, but to be a global power with international reach. That explains Tehran's alliance with leftist Venezuela President Hugo Chavez and Iran's sponsorship of attacks on targets in the Western Hemisphere, such as the bombing of the AMIA Jewish Center in Buenos Aires.
Iran is also building bridges to an increasingly anti-Western regime in long-time regional rival Turkey and has a budding relationship with Brazil. Iran recently enlisted Turkey and Brazil to try to impede international sanctions against Tehran.
Expanding its long-term alliance with Syria, Iran recently provided the Assad regime with sophisticated anti-aircraft radars which could close Syrian airspace to Israel if it sought to overfly that nation on the way to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.
In short, Iran is looking for opportunities around the world to expand its influence and to try to block efforts to try to contain its ambitions. Tehran's goal is not just to "wipe Israel from the map," but to directly threaten U.S. security and interests.
We must not ignore the threat Iran poses. We must keep the Tehran regime clearly in our focus and encourage our allies to do the same.
Republican Rep. Elton Gallegly represents Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in Congress and is a senior member of both the House Foreign Affairs and Intelligence Committees. He is the ranking Republican on the House Subcommittee on Europe.