Wednesday, August 15, 2007


At the Risk of Offending Iran...

At first glance, this seems a reasonable and not-too-controversial step to take:

“The United States has decided to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, the country's 125,000-strong elite military branch, as a "specially designated global terrorist," according to U.S. officials, a move that allows Washington to target the group's business operations and finances.” Iranian Unit to Be Labeled 'Terrorist' -

Indeed, as the article later notes:

“The administration's move comes amid growing support in Congress for the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act, which was introduced in the Senate by Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) and in the House by Tom Lantos (D-Calif.). The bill already has the support of 323 House members.”

(Well, yes, I would say that 323 house members could be an indication of “growing support in Congress”.)

Predictably, since this is a move by the Bush Administration, not everyone is happy about this:

“It would greatly complicate our efforts to solve the nuclear issue," said Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear proliferation expert at the Center for American Progress.

“Such sanctions can work only alongside diplomatic efforts, Cirincione added.

"Sanctions can serve as a prod, but they have very rarely forced a country to capitulate or collapse," he said. "All of us want to back Iran into a corner, but we want to give them a way out, too. [The designation] will convince many in Iran's elite that there's no point in talking with us and that the only thing that will satisfy us is regime change."

Now I have no idea what a “nuclear proliferation expert” is, how one obtains the designation or, more to the point, why we should care what one of them thinks about this matter. Mr. Cirincione's is hardly a non-partisan opinion and his employer, The Center for American Progress, is a notable critic of all things conservative and/or Republican. Indeed, his off-the-cuff remark about this greatly complicating our efforts to solve the nuclear issue comes across as naïve. Frankly, all this time trying NOT to complicate matters is what has complicated our efforts.

I don’t know what exact steps can and will be taken but I believe that screwing up an organization’s ability to participate in international financial markets can be an effective diplomatic weapon. Applying the “terrorist” label seems to allow for some of this.

Remember, North Korea seemed to get the point when our Treasury Department designated the North Korean bank of choice as an “institution of primary money-laundering concern”. That effectively cut the bank out of our system – something no bank of any importance wants to have happen. North Korea soon found out that no bank wanted its business thus making it difficult to buy and sell in the international market. Since then, we’ve been having a lot more dialogue with that leftist government.

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