Thursday, September 03, 2009

Sanctions Won't Work Against Iran

The mullahs are addressing their vulnerability to a gasoline shortage


Last week, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed elBaradei attempted to whitewash Iran's nuclear weapons program by issuing a report ignoring substantial information about weaponization activities and downplaying continued noncooperation.

Even the Obama administration apparently now understands that resuming the long-stalled "Permanent-Five plus-one" negotiations (the U.N. Security Council's permanent members plus Germany) with Iran is highly unlikely to halt Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Accordingly, President Obama is readying two alternatives. One is to characterize "freezing" Iran's nuclear program at existing levels as a "success." However, this less than complete termination of Iran's nuclear program would run contrary to years of determined clandestine efforts. Such a freeze is utterly unverifiable and amounts to surrender. This will result in a nuclear-armed Iran.

The other Obama administration ploy is "strong sanctions" imposed by the United States and other countries. This will also be a "success" only in the sense that it will allow the administration to claim a win. It won't actually prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

One idea for robust sanctions now before Congress is to prohibit exports of refined petroleum products—such as gasoline—to Iran. Today, Iran imports 40% of its daily refined petroleum consumption. Other proposals include international financial and insurance-related sanctions.

These ideas are well-intentioned and worth pursuing. If imposed, they will create shortages that will likely increase internal dissatisfaction with Iran's regime, thereby hopefully contributing to its ultimate demise. But no one should believe that tighter sanctions will, in the foreseeable future, have any impact on Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Six years ago more stringent measures against Iran might have worked, but today they are an idea whose time has come and gone. Their inadequacy stems from several causes.

First, the U.N. Security Council is no more likely now to approve strict sanctions against Iran than in the past. The prospects for Russian and Chinese support are between slim and none, since endorsing sanctions would harm their own economic and political interests in Iran. The most to expect from the council is a fourth sanctions resolution, as weak and ineffective as its predecessors, and only after weeks or months of agonizing negotiations.

Second, for those who understand the Security Council reality, most talk of enhanced sanctions envisages a coalition of the willing, consisting essentially of America, Japan and the European Union. But the EU's record to date, and Japan's likely policy under its new government (soon to be run by the Democratic Party of Japan), are hardly likely to produce a stiff, serious and sustained effort. Iran itself will offer countless reasons why sanctions should be suspended, reduced or ignored, and a disquieting amalgam of Western governments, businesses and commentators will agree at every step. It is very likely that EU resolve will fracture and Japan will follow suit. Moreover, many other countries will use the lack of a Security Council imprimatur to conduct business with Tehran, shredding the coalition's sanctions, and thereby weakening EU resolve still further.

Third, Iran is hardly standing idly by while sanctions that target its refined petroleum products are debated by the U.S. and other countries. Tehran's leaders are acutely aware of their vulnerability and are moving to address it. Iran, with extensive Chinese involvement, has already begun building new refineries and expanding existing facilities with the aim of approximately doubling domestic capacity by 2012. This will more than compensate for its current refining shortfall. Whether Iran can complete these projects on schedule remains to be seen, but the level of effort is intense and serious.

Tehran is also eliminating government subsidies that make retail gasoline cheaper than it otherwise would be. This will raise prices and thereby reduce consumption. Slashing consumer benefits is rarely popular, but this step alone will substantially reduce the pressure on Iran's refineries to produce. One can also be sure that the Revolutionary Guards' access to gasoline will not be diminished. Iran claims to have substantially increased its strategic gasoline reserves over the past year (though that increase has not been confirmed).

Most significantly, Iran's estimated natural gas reserves (948 trillion cubic feet in 2008) are second only to Russia's, and more than quadruple the U.S.'s. Here is "energy independence" for Iran that would make T. Boone Pickens envious, since relatively small capital expenditures can refit large motor-vehicle fleets (such as Iran's military and security services) to run on compressed natural gas. Iran also plans to increase subsidies for natural gas, thus diminishing consumer anger over lost gasoline subsidies.

For Washington, the question should not be whether "strict sanctions" will cause some economic harm despite Iran's multifarious, accelerating efforts to mitigate them. Instead, we must ask whether that harm will be sufficient to dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. Objectively, there is no reason to believe that it will.

Adopting tougher economic sanctions is simply another detour away from hard decisions on whether to accept a nuclear Iran or support using force to prevent it.



The "Animal Rights Czar" spells potential trouble for American farmers

One of the most effective ways a President influences public policy and law in a lasting manner is through regulatory actions taken by the federal government. It's not an area that typically garners substantial media attention because regulatory work is generally a highly technical matter performed by policy wonks largely unknown to the public.

Yet, despite their general obscurity, federal regulations have a substantial impact on virtually every facet of society. And the personnel who oversee the regulatory process have far greater influence than most would imagine.

Chief among the personnel who oversee the regulatory process is the administrator of an unheralded office within the White House's Office of Management and Budget called the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). The administrator is also known as the "Regulatory Czar." Earlier this year the President nominated Cass Sunstein to run this office. Sunstein's nomination is now pending before the full Senate. A vote on his nomination is expected next week....

Some of Mr. Sunstein's views are troubling to say the least. He is on record supporting rights for animals including giving standing to private persons to sue on behalf of animals under existing laws. He has also stated that he believes there should be more regulation in the area of animal rights.

This is slippery slope to say the least. What will happen if he is presented with a regulatory situation where he is free to “follow the law” as well as advance his own personal views at the same time? And what if he uses the power of this office to influence the law he then eagerly follows?

In my own past work experience, I’ve had substantial firsthand experience with OIRA. The office can be a bear to deal with since it has life and death power over regulatory actions. And I have seen how the personal views of OIRA staff can become dangerously problematic, as the regulators attempt to push the law in one way or another because they are in a position to affect (or even craft) law, not just follow it.




I have just put up a couple of "off the beaten track" posts on my Paralipomena blog -- which may particularly interest readers who take an interest in history.

Mike Adams has up a sampling of his hate mail -- together with his mocking replies. Rather fun. I receive very similar outbursts of ignorance from the Left myself. Are there any Leftists who can spell?

In his usual articulate way, Buchanan argues persuasively that Britain and France should not have interfered with Hitler's Drang nach Osten and that Hitler's aims fell well short of world conquest. He certainly was not prepared for the war he provoked. But in the end I still think Churchill was right and that Hitler would have used "salami tactics" to slice off the rest of the world bit by bit and that he had to be stopped before he grew powerful enough to do that.

Hoyer has rowdy Townhall: "House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told cheering and jeering constituents Tuesday he still supports a public health insurance option as part of a health care overhaul. Previously he's said there's room for compromise. At a packed high school gym, Hoyer, D-Md., was shouted down repeatedly during a town hall meeting where a crowd of 1,500 appeared to be evenly split between supporters and opponents of the health care overhaul effort. One woman pressed the Democratic leader on whether he'd give in on the public option if Republicans refused to compromise. "If the question is do I plan to vote for a public option with or without Republican support, the answer is yes," Hoyer said."

Obama's Shameless 'Torture' Prosecution Reversal: "President Barack Obama is either extraordinarily politically tone-deaf or arrogant beyond bounds, as indicated by his relentless pursuit of policies strongly rejected by the American people. His decision or acquiescence in the Department of Justice's decision to reinvestigate CIA terrorist interrogators is the latest outrage. Obama's approval ratings have cratered even further since my most recent column, and he's either Mr. Magoo, driving along in blissful oblivion, or Fearless Leader, who will do what he wants, American people be damned. Based on Obama's oft-articulated mindset -- "I won, so the other side should just quit talking" -- I think it's safe to say he's closer to dictator than to Magoo. Besides, Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to begin a new investigation of the CIA interrogators has Obama's national security-emasculating fingerprints all over it".

Obama praises barbaric 7th century ignorance at Ramadan dinner: "US President Barack Obama praised Islam as an integral part of America, as he feted prominent US Muslims at an Iftar dinner marking the holy fasting month of Ramadan. "For well over a billion Muslims, Ramadan is a time of intense devotion and reflection," Mr Obama said, in remarks welcoming his guests in the State Dining Room of the White House. "Tonight's Iftar is a ritual that is being carried out this Ramadan at kitchen tables and mosques in all 50 states," he said. "Islam as we know is part of America. Like the broader American citizenry, the American Muslim community is one of extraordinary dynamism and diversity. "On this occasion, we celebrate the holy month of Ramadan and we also celebrate how much Muslims have enriched America and its culture in ways both large and small,'' he said."

Obama pleases nobody some of the time: A president is going to be smacked around from the moment he takes office and the uplifting rhetoric of campaign rallies meets the gritty reality of governing. But the criticism of Barack Obama has turned strikingly personal as some of his liberal media allies have gone wobbly on him. After playing a cheerleading role during the campaign, some are bluntly questioning whether he's up to the job. If Obama is losing Paul Krugman, can the rest of the left be far behind? "I'm concerned as to whether, in trying to reach out to the middle, he is selling out his base," says Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page. "I find myself saying, 'Where's that well-oiled Obama machine we saw last year?' . . . Maybe he's being a little too cool at this point." David Corn, a blogger for Politics Daily, says that despite a reservoir of support for the president, some of his policies "have caused concern, if not outright anger, among certain liberal commentators and bloggers. It's been a more conventional White House than many people expected or desired. . . . He's made compromises that have some people concerned about his adherence to principle." Perhaps that's why a recent Frank Rich column in the New York Times was headlined, "Is Obama Punking Us?"

Rasmussen poll: "Looking back, after the initial euphoria of inauguration day, the President’s ratings slipped a bit but remained steady and positive from February thru May. In June, the numbers began to move down a bit, still remained generally positive. July and August were less positive months for the President. Overall, the number who Strongly Approve has fallen from 43% in January to 30% in August. During that same time frame, the number who Strongly Disapprove has grown from 20% to 39%. Those numbers translate to a Presidential Approval Index that has declined from +23 in January to -9 in August. Also in August, the President’s total approval fell below 50% for the first time. While opposition to the President’s proposed health care reform is partly responsible for the declining approval ratings, the numbers reflect a broader level of frustration. Last fall, during the Bush Administration, voters overwhelmingly opposed the bailout plans for banks but the bailout went ahead. Earlier this year, voters overwhelmingly opposed the federal takeover of General Motors and Chrysler, but they went ahead as well. Two-thirds of American voters (64%) support a law requiring the federal government to sell its interest in GM within one year. Currently, Republicans have a modest lead on the Generic Congressional Ballot."

Two deadly truck bombers were recently freed by Obama admin.: Two truck bombers who killed 95 people in devastating attacks on the Iraqi finance and foreign ministries were recently released from US custody, a senior interior ministry official said on Sunday. "The suicide bomber who blew himself up at the ministry of foreign affairs was released three months ago from Camp Bucca," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity, referring to the US jail near Basra. "The suicide bomber who blew himself up outside the ministry of finance was also released a few months ago from the same jail." The August 19 attacks in Baghdad also wounded 600 people in the worst day of violence to hit the country for 18 months."

French coverup: "Air France pilots yesterday accused accident investigators of trying to cover up the cause of the Airbus crash off the coast of Brazil in June that killed 228 people after officials appeared to blame the crew for the disaster... Mr Arnoux, an Airbus captain, said that the BEA was trying to overcome its previous failure to act on known faults with speed sensors, known as pitot tubes, on Airbus aircraft. “The architecture of the Airbus systems is in question,” he said. The families have accused Air France and the BEA of dishonesty. Christophe Guillot-Noël, who heads an association of victims’ families, said that Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, the airline boss, was privately blaming the pilots. The BEA report was shaped by politics, he said. A new deep-sea search is to start this month for the flight recorders, but data sent in the moments before the aircraft disappeared has offered an outline of the chain of events. Faulty speed readings, apparently caused by ice, prompted erratic behaviour by the automated flight system. Flying by hand, and without key data, the two pilots were unable to keep control. In a preliminary report in July, the BEA said that the speed sensors were “a factor, but not the cause” of the crash. In late July, the European Aviation Safety Agency ordered replacement of the French-made pitots with American ones on all long-range Airbuses. Suspicion has fallen on the highly automated design of the Airbus flight systems."

Freedom Communications enters bankruptcy protection: "Freedom Communications Inc., the owner of more than 30 daily newspapers including the Orange County Register in California, sought bankruptcy protection after print advertising revenue declined. Freedom, the owner of eight television stations, has assets of as much as $1 billion and debt of more than $1 billion, it said today in Chapter 11 papers in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware. The Irvine, California-based company said it filed after a majority of Freedom’s lenders agreed to support a plan to restructure its debt.”


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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