In my column for CNN, I discuss Senator Mark Kirk’s plan to impose sanctions on Iran’s central bank:
On the other hand, despite the tightening, the sanctions remain pitifully inadequate to the job. Iran’s most crucial import is gasoline, because this oil-producing nation cannot refine enough gasoline for its automobiles. Gasoline imports to Iran are supposedly sanctioned. Despite sanctions, Iran has increased its imports of gasoline over the past 90 days, according to news reports.
As sanctions fail to bait, the options on halting Iran’s nuclear program get uglier.
Somebody (Israel? Iranian dissidents backed by Saudi Arabia?) is carrying out a campaign of violent sabotage against Iran’s nuclear program. On November 12, a huge explosion leveled an Iranian missile base near Tehran. Iran acknowledged the explosion killed several dozen people, including the head of its missile program. By some reports, the dead included a team of visiting North Korean missile scientists.
Two weeks later, another huge explosion was heard near Isfahan, site of an Iranian uranium enrichment facility. This time, however, the Iranian regime offered no statement or details on the explosion. If any Western government knows anything, that government is not sharing its information.
Over the past few years, there have been numerous reports of the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists, including one shot deadon a busy street by a motorcyclist in July.
Some foreign policy analysts suggest a policy of “containment” and “deterrence” of Iran’s nuclear weapons. That policy seems incredibly unrealistic, given the Iranian regime’s long history of reckless adventurism, including terrorist operations on the soil of (among others): Argentina, France, Germany, Lebanon, Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.
But even if containment and deterrence were realistic options, the situation has moved far past that point. There’s a covert war being waged apparently over the Iranian nuclear program. Iran is waging a brutal irregular campaign of its own: It’s suspected of being behind an assassination attempt against the Saudi ambassador to the United States; it has given aid to Bashar al-Assad’s Syria and to Hezbollah in Lebanon and has aided insurgents in Afghanistan. And Iran’s nuclear ambitions have unleashed a cycle that will not be stable — that is much more likely to end in open conflict than in a standoff.
Yet there is a leader pushing a plan that could end the cycle without war: U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois.
For a year, the freshman senator has been urging a new approach to sanctions, an approach that truly would force an Iranian rethink. The Kirk plan, co-sponsored by Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, would impose sanctions on the Iranian central bank, in effect severing Iran from the entire global payments system.
Specifically, the Menendez-Kirk amendment would forbid any U.S. financial institution to deal with the Iranian central bank — or to deal with any financial institution that does so. Every bank would find itself confronted with a stark threat: If you do business with Iran, you will lose access to the largest financial market on earth. These sanctions would collapse the central bank of Iran and shove the Iranian economy onto a barter system for all external transactions.