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When the UN passed a weak set of sanctions against Iran a couple of months ago, the party line was that what really mattered wasn’t the UN sanctions themselves, but the fact that they gave the green light to the U.S. and Europe to impose even tougher sanctions of their own. But Paul Richter of the LA Times reports that these sanctions aren’t having much effect either:

Efforts by the United States and its European allies to build a united front to halt Iran’s nuclear program are facing increasingly bold resistance from China, Russia, India and Turkey, which are rushing to boost their economies by seizing investment opportunities in defiance of sanctions imposed by the West.

….The U.S. sanctions prohibit petroleum-related sales to Iran, yet China and Turkey have sold huge cargoes of gasoline to Tehran, and Russian officials say they will begin shipping gasoline as well later this month, according to industry officials. The four countries also have signed deals or opened talks on investments worth billions of dollars in Iran’s oil and gas fields, petrochemical plants and pipelines.

….Although China’s economic ties with Iran have been growing for 15 years, the recent expansion of its business “has been amazing,” said a senior European official, who asked to remain unidentified because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue.

This is typical of the history of sanctions: they only work if you can get virtually everybody on board with them. And most of the time you can’t. Unfortunately, unless you’re willing to countenance military strikes, there’s not much more we can do. I suppose we can try to fine foreign companies that violate the US/EU sanctions regime, but that’s a difficult game on a whole bunch of levels. There are just very few options left that have even a minuscule chance of changing Iran’s behavior.

Unless peace suddenly breaks out in the Middle East, of course. I guess there’s always that to hope for.

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