By Jim Kouri
Whenever faced with a rogue nation, the United States more often than not bends to the will of the United Nations or other entity that favors economic sanctions. This holds true for the current Administration of President Barack Obama as evidenced this week when he gave American and foreign companies waivers so they might continue their business relationships with Iran.
With the recent three-day testing of missiles by the Iranian military, the world has been put on notice that this Islamofascist nation will continue to be the fly in the ointment for world peace.
The United States National Security Strategy recently acknowledged that the U.S. faces challenges from Iran, including Iran’s proliferation efforts and involvement in international terrorism including Iranian intelligence officers in South America and its proxy army Hezbollah in the Western Hemisphere.
To address these concerns, the United States employs a range of tools, including diplomatic pressure, a military presence in the Gulf, and economic sanctions. A U.S. sanction is a unilateral restriction or condition on economic activity imposed by the United States for reasons of foreign policy or national security.
However, many security experts question the effectiveness of economic sanctions when nations such as Russia, China and others ignore them and in fact capitalize on them for their own benefit.
The U.S. Congress requested that analysts from the Government Accountability Office review sanctions targeting Iran and their implementation, sanction impacts, and factors limiting sanctions.
To conduct the review, the GAO analysts assessed trade and sanction data, information on Iran’s economy and energy sector, and US and international reports on Iran. These GAO investigators also discussed sanctions with U.S. officials and Iran experts.
Since 1987, U.S. agencies have implemented numerous sanctions against Iran. First, Treasury oversees a ban on trade and investment with Iran and filed over 94 civil penalty cases between 2003 and 2007 against companies violating the prohibition. This ban may be circumvented by shipping goods to Iran through other countries, said the GAO analysts.
Second, the State Department administers laws that sanction foreign parties engaging in proliferation or terrorism-related activities with Iran. Under one law, the Department of State imposed sanctions in 111 instances against Chinese, North Korean, Syrian, and Russian entities, the report to congress stated.
Third, the Treasury and State Departments can use financial sanctions to freeze the assets of targeted parties and reduce their access to the US financial system. U.S. government officials report that so far the sanctions have slowed foreign investment in Iran’s petroleum sector, denied parties involved in Iran’s proliferation and terrorism activities access to the U.S. financial system, and provided a clear statement of U.S. concerns to the rest of the world.
But there are a number of Middle East experts — including some who are Arab and Iranian Americans — who believe the sanctions are an empty exercise since the Russian government has taken Iran under its wing and the Obama administration is merely biding its time until after the November election to once again place the Iranian “crisis” on the political back-burner.