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Are Sanctions Working?
If the purpose is to penalize Iran’s rulers for their crimes and discourage civilized people from buying blood oil, yes.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khameinei in front of a portrait of the late Ayatollah Khomeini

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Clifford D. May

There’s pain, and then there’s pain. Getting stung by a bee hurts. Having a Doberman sink his teeth into your thigh is a more intense experience. By the same token, there are sanctions, and then there are sanctions. For years, the sanctions imposed on Iran were an irritation, a not-entirely-convincing message to the regime that one of these days. . . .  Now, however, new and tougher sanctions are being imposed on Iran — and they are beginning to bite. 

The rial has lost 50 percent of its value since December. Inflation is running over 20 percent, with some unofficial estimates pegging it at twice that amount. Iran’s rulers have forfeited more than $60 billion in energy investment and $14 billion in annual oil sales, while hundreds of billions of dollars in potential sales of Iranian natural gas have been prevented. Crude-oil production is falling, and Iran’s central bank is finding it difficult to receive payments for the oil it does export. The regime is paying more to import gasoline and has had to slash subsidies as a result, reminding Iranians that they don’t have the means to refine their own oil into gasoline — thanks to their rulers’ perverse priorities.

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According to French intelligence, Iran has cut funding to Hezbollah — its terrorist foreign legion — by 25 percent. According to Reuters, Iran’s financial aid to Hamas stopped flowing in August. “We can’t pretend sanctions aren’t having an effect,” Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi said recently.

And no one should pretend there isn’t justice in that. Finally, we are making the theocratic clique that rules Iran pay at least a minimal price for being the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism; for facilitating the killings of hundreds of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in Saudi Arabia and Beirut before that; for assassinating Iranian expatriates in Europe and plotting to blow up a restaurant in Washington, D.C.; for illegally developing nuclear weapons; for both inciting and threatening genocide; and for killing, raping, imprisoning, and otherwise egregiously violating the human rights of the Iranian people.

Regarding that last indictment, two examples out of hundreds that could be cited: (1) Yousef Nadarkhani is in prison and facing the death penalty. What did he do to deserve that? He converted to Christianity. (2) Iran’s Supreme Court recently confirmed the death sentence of Saeed Malekpour, an Iranian-born Canadian permanent resident. Of what was he convicted? “Crimes against Islam” and “spreading corruption on Earth.”

Decent people do not wear “blood diamonds.” Why is it more defensible to pump “blood oil” into your Volvo? A loophole in American law allows for gasoline imported into the U.S. to be made from Iranian crude. Congress can and should end this practice by making the U.S. an “Iranian-oil-free zone.” New sanctions measures, targeting Iran’s national oil company, its oil-tanker fleet, and its access to the global electronic financial system are being considered on the Hill this week.

If sanctions achieve nothing more than to make clear that civilized people do not do business as usual with tyrants and, in particular, with storm troopers — a fair description of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which owns many of the country’s major industries and businesses — they are worth the effort. 



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