Sanctioning Our Way To War

Beinart likes “hearing Iran hawks argue for war because I know they’re being honest.” When they argue for more and more crippling sanctions, despite concessions from Iran, not so much:

Hawks argue that because sanctions are hurting Iran’s economy, and Iran has showed increased flexibility under newly elected President Hassan Rouhani, even more sanctions will make Tehran capitulate completely. Since “international sanctions have forced Iran to the negotiating table,” argued House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce recently, “we should build upon this success with additional measures to compel Iran to make meaningful and lasting concessions.”

But it’s hard to reconcile that view with any of the information coming out of Iran. While the pain of sanctions may be prompting Iranian leaders to make concessions they would not have previously made, there’s little evidence that the sanctions threaten what Iran’s leaders cherish most: their hold on power. To the contrary, prominent Green Revolution figures have argued that sanctions strengthen the regime at home.  Were Royce’s logic correct, Rouhani would be feeling the heat from Iranian doves outraged that he is not capitulating more fully to Western demands. Instead he’s under attack from hawks outraged that he’s conceding too much and getting little in return.

It’s hard to believe that hawks such as Netanyahu and [House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed] Royce really believe that ratcheting up sanctions in pursuit of a zero enrichment demand that most foreign governments, and most Iranians, oppose, will bring a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear standoff. Then again, given what they’ve written in the past it’s hard to believe that many hawks really want a diplomatic solution at all.

They don’t, it seems to me. Such a solution would require imagination and a strategic sense of the long view. Netanyahu has powerfully demonstrated that he – along with his extremist allies in the US Congress – has neither. They remain wedded to a past that cannot hold and a future which cannot happen, unless it means catastrophic religious warfare.

My longer take on Israel and Iran is here.