Thursday, April 2, 2009

Iranian sanctions

Defense Secretary Bob Gates, in a recent Fox interview, said that he thought the best way to alter Iranian behavior was to impose economic sanctions. A cynic might say that he was recommending policies that involved departments other than his, while a realist might say that economic sanctions are highly unlikely to alter the Iranian determination to produce a nuclear weapon.

But there are other objections, even if you assume economic sanctions are a good tool for this problem. To be effective, they must be imposed by all the major trading nations. Which brings us to ... Germany, historically a very important trading partner for Iran.

According to journalist Benjamin Weinthal, speaking at the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism, Germany racked up some 4 billion euros in trade with Iran last year, an increase of 10.5% over the previous year. Some German exports were even supported by government subsidies. Of 5,000 known business deals, some 39 involved dual use technology (good for both military and civilian uses).

Unsurprisingly, the Bush administration failed to elicit much German enthusiasm for sanctions, which would impede this trade flow. My question: does the Obama administration think it can improve on this dismal record and, if so, why?

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