UPDATE, JAN 10: The goal of the sanctions is "regime collapse," a "senior U.S. intelligence official" told The Washington Post's Karen DeYoung and Scott Wilson on Tuesday.
Let’s not kid ourselves about the Iran sanctions: They’re not going to stop the theocrats from building a Shiite bomb.
With apologies to Ron Paul, it’s safe to assume that the Iranians are determined to go nuclear.
And why not? The United States and Iran have been at war since 1979, when the U.S.-backed shah was overthrown and Islamist mobs stormed the American embassy, taking 52 diplomats hostage.
We’ve called for their demise again and again. They’ve called for ours. War between us and them has seemed inevitable for decades. The drumbeat for a preemptive U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran reached a crescendo in the last months of the Bush administration and remains at a high decibel level today.
If you were them, what would you do? Lose your nukes?
Not a chance.
None of which is to minimize the Iranian nuclear threat or its role in destabilizing the Middle East (read: Israel).
But the broad U.S. economic and financial sanctions on Iran are not going to hurt the regime, at least in the short run--or even derail its nuclear program--especially now that the Europeans are having second thoughts.
Sanctions rarely work. Was Saddam Hussein unhorsed by sanctions (backed by no-fly zones)? No.
As with Saddam’s Iraq, the mullahs--and their scientists--will still be guzzling Johnnie Walker as their countrymen scrounge, for months, if not years, to come.
Indeed, the sanctions are already wreaking pain on ordinary Iranians, as the fascinating story by Joby Warrick and Thomas Erdbrink in today’s Washington Post well illustrates.
So if the sanctions are more likely to accelerate Iran’s nuclear program than deter it, then what are we doing?
Feeling good, for starters. The sanctions also give President Obama cover from such right-wing chicken hawks as Newt Gingrich and other war drummers (particularly the Israel lobby) that they’re “weak” on Iran. He looks tough.
And in fact, he is tough, when you take into account what seems to be a robust plan of covert action against Iran, which includes the assassination of its nuclear scientists and cyber war on its weapons facilities. No doubt the CIA is also working hard to induce Iranian officials to rat out the regime.
None of which are likely to do more than hobble or delay the inevitable. But bring down the regime? Fuhgeddaboutit.
Not that all these activities shouldn’t be undertaken--along with offering Iran a way out in the unlikely event if opts to change its course.
But short of a coup d’etat, which seems unlikely in the tightly controlled theocracy, the Tehran regime is here to stay. Likewise, its attainment of a nuclear weapon is as inevitable as it was in Russia, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea.
We’ll learn to live with it. Just like we’ve done with all the others.
And they will learn to live with the realization that having one doesn’t lead to easy street.
And using one means their utter annihilation.