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Iran: Time for tougher Sanctions

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Iran: Time for tougher sanctions | The Economist

THE six countries trying to talk Iran out of its dangerous nuclear ambitions—America, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China—face an unappetising choice. Iran continues to produce stocks of enriched uranium that it claims are intended for a civilian nuclear programme (although it has no nuclear-powered reactor that could use the stuff), but which could make a bomb.
The stakes are all the higher because this issue is a severe test of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). That grand bargain enables countries to make electricity, but not weapons, with nuclear fission. It is up for review this year. If the months tick by with Iran demonstrating to all the world just how easy it is to break the treaty’s rules with impunity, the NPT will finally be done for. The time has therefore come for harsher measures. There are only two options for the six countries: tougher sanctions or military action.
No government—not even that in Israel, whose security is most directly threatened by Mr Ahmadinejad—wants to use force...
...And even if an attack succeeded in penetrating all of Iran’s underground sites—a big if—it could do no more than set back Iran’s ambitions temporarily... Military strikes would also risk provoking a wider conflict in a region that is already worryingly unstable.
Self-interest is not the only reason to oppose sanctions. Those who favour military strikes and those who would do nothing both complain that sanctions won’t work. Others believe that they would work, but would do more harm than good by encouraging Iranians to rally around the government at a time when the protest movement looks as though it might just bring about change.
If sanctions were used only when their consequences were certain, then they would never be used at all; and uncertainty is no excuse for doing nothing, because that could be just as dangerous.
ome officials in Mr Obama’s team have hinted that further patience could yet be wise. Keeping the door open to talks, should Mr Ahmadinejad have a change of heart, is a good idea. But putting off harsher measures will only encourage him to press on. Despite the uncertainty of action, the price for inaction is higher.
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