Ex-Israeli Official: Time for Iran Sanctions Is Now

Tuesday, 13 Apr 2010 07:14 PM

By Kenneth R. Timmerman

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The United States can’t afford to waste any additional time waiting for Russia and China to join an international effort to impose “crippling” sanctions on Iran, says former Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh.

Because neither country is a major supplier of oil and gas field technology, or the development capital that Iran is desperately seeking, “they are not indispensable for the success of crippling sanctions,” Sneh said. “If someone waits until China and Russia will be on board, sanctions will be tickling and not crippling.”

The purpose of the sanctions “is not just to prevent the Iranian nuclear bomb,” he said. “It’s to get rid of this horrible regime, which is cruel and brutal at home, and aggressive and spreading terrorism abroad from Afghanistan to Lebanon to Israel, everywhere.”

Sneh garnered international attention last week when he wrote in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz that Israel would be compelled to launch military strikes on Iran by November if crippling sanctions were not imposed before then.

“Don’t be mistaken,” he said. “I don’t consider the military the preferred option. It’s the least preferred option. Sincerely, it’s the last resort.”

Israel’s leaders are fully prepared for Iranian retaliation, both directly from Iran and through its proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah. “Retaliation will be painful but bearable. It will be a high price for us. But it’s worth paying because nothing is worse than to live under a nuclear Iran while this is the regime which governs Iran, a regime based on visceral hatred, not only to Jews and Israel, but to our entire culture, our entire values.

“To live under the Iran nuclear threat is worse than the damage that they can inflict.”

Sneh said he couldn’t understand why the United States was not willing to give tough sanctions a chance. “Why don’t we try it before speaking of military action?” he said. “Why don’t we avoid all the price, the retaliation, by [putting in place] sanctions, which are cheap and bloodless?”

Asked if the United States had the ability to impose crippling sanctions on Iran, the left-wing Israeli politician put the blame squarely on the Obama White House.

“Is the U.S. capable of doing it? Yes, and quickly. The question is, will there be a political decision by the White House to do it?”

He noted that both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives have overwhelmingly passed tough sanctions legislation that would impose a cutoff in refined petroleum products to Iran, widely seen as targeting an endemic weakness of the Iranian economy and thus capable of forcing a change in the regime’s behavior.

“It’s ready to be immediately implemented,” he said. “So you ask me, can the U.S. do it? Definitely, yes. But it’s a matter of political decision, of understanding that there is no more time to wait, that the engagement with [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad is futile [and] will lead no place.”

Sneh was speaking on a conference call organized by The Israel Project, a nonpartisan group that seeks to build public support for sanctions in the United States and has urged its supporters to avoid any criticism of the Obama administration, even on unrelated issues, in order to win White House support for tough Iran sanctions.

But Sneh seemed genuinely flummoxed when he was asked what the main obstacle was to crippling sanctions. “I can’t answer this question,” he said. “It’s your administration.”

The refusal of the Obama White House to take concrete steps to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program was baffling to Sneh. “We’re not speaking about declaring a war, about sending soldiers to get killed,” he said. “It’s legislation and the ability to impose legislation. That’s all. Not a drop – maybe a drop of ink, but not a single drop of blood.”


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