The Times: When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad walks up to the podium today in New York to deliver another blast of venom, the only proper response is for the US to hit Iran’s economy with much tougher sanctions than anyone has yet tried. That means targeting its oil industry, not just its leaders and its banks.
No country has yet tried to hit at the heart of the Iranian economy
When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad walks up to the podium today in New York to deliver another blast of venom, the only proper response is for the US to hit Iran’s economy with much tougher sanctions than anyone has yet tried. That means targeting its oil industry, not just its leaders and its banks.
Otherwise, Iran’s President will deliver real injury, not just insult, to this crucial conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). He has taken Iran to the brink of having nuclear weapons, and if it does soon get them (despite protestations that it only wants nuclear power), that will trigger a Middle East arms race.
The only country able to impose tough sanctions quickly is America. It should do so now. The brutal truth is that the time for dissuading Iran has probably passed. But if it hasn’t, the US needs to act now. It’s a tribute to the success of the NPT, in force since 1970 and signed by 189 countries, that these five-yearly reviews are usually dusty talks about the inspection of power stations. Meetings have tried to patch up — but not rewrite — the lopsided bargain built into the treaty. This says that the original five nuclear weapons states (the US, Russia, China, Britain and France) promise to help others to get nuclear power (but not weapons), while cutting their own stockpiles.
For all the grumbling at this uneven deal, the NPT is arguably the world’s most successful arms-control effort. Forty years later, only four more countries have weapons: Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea. Israel, famously, has not declared its hand (although Jimmy Carter broke the coyness in telling The Times that it had around 150 warheads).
This year is different. Arab countries are actively seeking nuclear power and, with an eye on Iran, maybe weapons too. Anyone who thinks that notion abstract should consider how the close relations between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan might give the Saudis quick access to the fruits of Pakistan’s nuclear military work. There is one big new notion — to pool nuclear fuel manufacture, keeping key skills under control. That scheme will collapse if Iran gets the bomb.
Yet in eight years Iran has given not an inch. The sanctions that the US extracted from the UN Security Council, despite China’s and Russia’s reluctance, targeted Iranian leaders but tried to spare ordinary people. The US’s own recent sanctions, aimed at Iran’s banks and those who use them, have hit harder. But no country has yet tried to hit Iran’s oil industry, the heart of its economy.
The US should grab whatever support is provoked by President Ahmadinejad’s latest insults, and try once more — alone if necessary.