The New York Times, 12 February 2010 reports (see here) that Iran’s announcement that it had begun enriching uranium to 20 percent has brought expressions of alarm from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who said earlier in the week that the United Nations must impose “crippling sanctions, and these sanctions must be applied right now.”
It has been the consistent position of this blog that imposing sanctions on Iran would be a seriously dumb idea, for reasons spelt out in Iran: Sanctions are in the air. There are many reasons, but what they all boil down to is that sanctions will not work.
Iran: sanctions still on the agenda provides some further reasons for refraining from sanctions against Iran, offered by Hossein Askari, Professor of International Business and International affairs at the George Washington University, and Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council and author of Treacherous Alliance — The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the United States.
Also, as explained in Choke point: the Strait of Hormuz, Iran has the option of retaliating by closing the Strait of Hormuz. The United States would have to respond, and the ensuing confrontation would pose a high risk of spiralling out of control.
Aside from the above, there is the morality of imposing “crippling sanctions” against anyone. As the sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s regime demonstrated, general economic sanctions (as distinct from export controls on particular items of military significance) hit hardest the most vulnerable in society – infants, young children, the ill and the elderly. They do so by reducing access to electricity, clean water, safe food, emergency transport, and spare parts for imported equipment upon which life or safety depend.
On the subject of sanctions, I continue to hope, but with diminishing confidence, that wiser counsels will prevail.