Incremental sanctions make a nuclear Iran more likely / Michael Singh

In its most recent report, the IAEA acknowledged what many observers have asserted for years -- that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon. Whether this is the result of new evidence, or merely the willingness of the agency’s new director-general to heed the existing evidence, is beside the point. The findings will provide new impetus for a sanctions push that has been extensively foreshadowed over the last several months by leaders in the United States and Europe.

For the next tranche of sanctions to be successful, thought must be given not only to which measures are chosen, but how they are chosen. The instinct of policymakers in Europe and Washington is often to act incrementally; stronger sanctions are proposed, only to be diluted in U.N. negotiations aimed at unanimity. The measures that are ultimately adopted are usually just one step beyond the previous set.

This incremental approach is counterproductive. The sanctions’ predictability and long lead time allows Tehran to prepare for them in advance. For example, Iran is currently expanding its oil refining capacity and reducing consumption subsidies in anticipation of the sort of gasoline sanctions moving through Congress, and could be a net gasoline exporter by 2013. Incrementalism inures the Iranian regime to sanctions altogether, stripping of credibility any threats of tougher action in the future. The result is to rob sanctions of their deterrent effect and make extreme outcomes -- a nuclear-arme... >>>

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