Hijacking the Iran Sanctions

Word from Tehran and Washington is that the nuclear dispute might be resolved soon after the U.S. elections, assuming President Obama wins. But some American neocons are hoping that whatever the result on Nov. 6, they can hijack the sanctions policy for “regime change,” as ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar notes.

By Paul R. Pillar

Tear gas can stimulate the salivary glands of people hungry for regime change, even if those people belong to a different country and are thousands of miles away from the streets where the gas canisters are being fired. This may become one of the effects of protests in Tehran by money changers and bazaaris upset over the collapse of the Iranian currency.

Whether the protests expand into anything politically significant is unpredictable. They may be too narrowly aimed at the lame-duck president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to become a serious challenge to the regime. What is more predictable is the reaction of anti-Iran activists in the West (and Israel).

Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei

An immediate reaction from those stoking the idea of a military attack on Iran has been to warn people away from the “sanctions are working” idea while nonetheless calling for still more sanctions. Don’t be surprised to hear as an additional argument (despite any logical inconsistency with the first argument) that it would be a mistake to let up the pressure on Iran — regardless of what it does in negotiations over the nuclear issue — at a time when the mullahs’ regime seems to be teetering and there is hope for being rid of that regime once and for all.

Resistance to any lessening of sanctions as part of a negotiated agreement with Iran on the nuclear question has, unfortunately, already been strong, even before the newest protests. That resistance has been reflected in the relatively inflexible negotiating posture to date of the United States and its partners of the P5 +1.

A hope in some quarters that economic pressure will hasten the demise of the current Iranian regime no doubt is one of the causes of that resistance, even though that is not explicitly an official objective of the sanctions. The more that street protests in Tehran sustain that hope, the stronger is likely to be resistance in the United States to any sanctions relief, and the more politically difficult it will be for any American administration to strike a nuclear deal, which would require such relief.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in noting the multiple reasons for Iran’s economic failures, said on Wednesday, “Of course the sanctions have had an impact as well, but those could be remedied in short order if the Iranian government were willing to work with the P5+1 and the rest of the international community in a sincere manner.”

That is a good description of how the sanctions are supposed to be used. Sadly, it does not describe how the P5+1 have used them so far in the negotiations.

As the history of the USSR (consistent with how George Kennan envisioned it in the 1940s) illustrates, there need be no contradiction between engaging and striking deals with a regime we don’t like, and seeing that regime crumble as a result of its own internal weaknesses. There is a contradiction in any attempt to use the same policy instruments (in this case sanctions) both to influence a regime’s policies and to try to topple it.

The inflexible application of pressure in pursuit of the toppling objective renders unusable the same sort of pressure as leverage — which requires flexibility — to elicit changes in policy. To the extent inflexible application continues to be the case with the approach toward Iran, the resulting stalemate will of course be interpreted as an indication of Iranian obduracy — whereas in fact it is an indication of confusion in the use of our own policy instruments.

Holding out hope that sustained pressure will hasten regime change in this case represents a bad bet. It means placing trust in a very uncertain process — notwithstanding the tear gas in Tehran streets — while jettisoning an important tool that if properly used would help lead to an agreement that would satisfy all legitimate concerns about nuclear proliferation as it pertains to Iran.

Even if regime-change-wishers had a better bet to make, they need to think hard about what they are wishing for. Much of what they don’t like about Iran is not unique to the Islamic Republic and would continue under any imaginable successor regime.

That includes the current nuclear program, which began under the Shah and has broad public support. It also includes many other things, including opposition to Israeli policies in the region.

We should have learned some things in this regard from our regime-changing experience in Iraq, where the regime we have been left with is narrowly sectarian, increasingly authoritarian, and pro-Iran.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as a blog post  at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)


  9 comments for “Hijacking the Iran Sanctions

  1. F. G. Sanford
    October 4, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    “We should have learned some things in this regard from our regime-changing experience in Iraq, where the regime WE have been left with is narrowly sectarian, increasingly authoritarian, and pro-Iran.”

    WE have been left with? Excuse me, but there are only two issues that concern the United States in the Middle East. One is the price of oil, and the other is our pathological relationship with Israel. WE would be ahead geopolitically to break the pathological relationship. And, if we stopped meddling in their affairs, WE could cut the defense budget by 50%. This statement acknowledges that our policy in the Middle East is essentially imperialism, and WE deserve exactly the regime WE got. WE could swallow our pride, buy oil from Venezuela, and reduce the price at the pump by a drastic amount. Why pretend that WE are not spending billions on defense to prop oil company profits and maintain the status of the petrodollar? I’m really getting sick of hearing esoteric explanations of geopolitical policy struggles that tap dance around the reality that should be as plain as the nose WE keep sticking where it doesn’t belong.

    • jerry gates
      October 5, 2012 at 7:01 am

      F.G. Sanford articulates the frustrations of many if not most learned and well studied detractors of the US and Israeli led NATO advancing of battle lines against their various phantom menaces.

      People who do their homework understand what perhaps most distracted world citizens do not. Many upper echelon investment groups greedy individuals and corporate growers of their own gardens of wealth dont give a shit about politics, they care about their own fattened wallets and keeping that filled with money which makes these people feel secure.

      Iranians do it, Arabs do it, Jews do it, Christians do it and atheists do it, It,s called selfishness. This might seem simplistic to some but the underlying destructiveness of the brutality of NATO selfishness and that of their various allies world wide is a contagious human disease that potentially self destructs empires rather than enhancing their holdings and grass roots citizen support.

      Turning citizens against their regimes in power is the lazy sluggards way of life that doesn’t require much thought or foresight, the bully picking on those they hope to keep weaker than themselves to buoy false pride, a sense of control and their dominance over the weak.People gossip, lie, deceive and distort information and sentiments to divide friends to make it easier to dominate lessor unified aspirants to individual freedom of self expression. The Homeland security complex, Polands once vaunted Stasi and the election commission in charge of US debates limit information, sew seeds of doubt among friends and hide information which could be useful to citizens, and this is all done for one purpose, full spectrum domination by bullies far to stupid to use love, compassion and basic human grace to build their kingdoms, so they take the low road of sedition, which is basically the most horridly selfish way of life on the planet and to be sure has drawn deep scorn and hatred to it’s purveyors and acolytes.

      Iranian Mullahs aren’t perfect in their rulership of Iran, but if we look at Israel some NATO EU nations and the US for signs of perfection in governance we perhaps have to admit that our morality pales on comparison to the Mullahs morality and rule which may be a sign not of self righteousness on the part of the zionist inspired tediousness of militant sedition by hard wired bullies but jealousy, the green with envy human fault line where the immoral covet the decency of the moral.

      Prophets of old saw this as the Achilles heel of Israel of old and admonished vehemently their pharisees and slovenly clerics to be moral people and leaders rather than destroying the morality of their subjects and enemies which is very wise counsel from spiritually oriented moralists of their day. Today morality has become obscured by excuses for graft grifters and charlatans of every ilk in the Wests many pundits gardens of reaping. God and Jesus, Mohammed and the modern day prophets would surely agree that the zionists are as Jesus parable avers, trying to pick the mote from brothers eye with a blinding board within their own eyes, this board is the Achillies heel of Israel for millenniums and has yet to consult the proper authority to advise in it;s extraction.

      Love conquers all, not false pride.

  2. October 5, 2012 at 9:11 am

    The Zioconservatives in their treason or ignorance don’t want to tell the American public what they mean by pro-USrael regime-change. The vast majority of Americans and the westerners are ignorant of the fact that the Presidency in Iran is totally different than in the United States. The President of Iran cannot assume the powers of a “civilian dictator” just because the majority of Congress and Senate (AIPAC poodle) is behind him – as is the case these days in America. Under Iranian Constitution, the President is a public representative, whose duty is to help the Supreme Leader run the affairs of the country on daily basis with the Majlis (parliament) consultations.

    The Supreme Leader, under the Constitution, controls all four branches of Iran’s Armed Forces, Judiciary and appoints a few representatives in each of the governing bodies. In other world, the Ziocons’ (mostly Jewish dual citizen) dream of “regime change” will only work if the ‘foundation’ of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Supreme Leader, is removed – as they failed to do during 8-year Saddam’s invasion of Iran. During that period, most of these Ziocons (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Kristol, Bolton, Kissinger, etc.) were supporting Saddam Hussein.

    The US-Iran “friendship”, which is needed more by the US for its strategic interests, than Iran – will only materialized when Ayatullah Khamenie or the next “Imam” believe that Washington’s intentions are good for Iran’s national interests.


    • borat
      October 5, 2012 at 8:15 pm

      Hey Rehmatshit,
      What has your medievalist arab theocracies done for mankind lately with the exception of selling oil and exporting terrorism?

      Top 10 ways Israeli scientists are battling breast cancer

      In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, ISRAEL21c has put together a list of the top 10 latest Israeli advances in breast cancer.

      By Abigail Klein Leichman October 2, 201

      One in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Israeli scientists hope to improve the odds. Photo by http://www.shutterstock.com

      One out of every eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. It is the most commonly diagnosed non-skin cancer in women worldwide, and also strikes thousands of men.

      Though the three areas with the highest breast cancer rates are Western Europe, Australia/New Zealand and Northern Europe, Israel has taken a leading role in researching causes and treatments. The Breast Cancer Research Foundation’s very first international research grant was awarded in 2001 to Shaare Zedek Medical Center’s Dr. Ephrat Levy-Lahad to do a comprehensive Israeli Breast Cancer Study, now an international model for genetic breast cancer prevention screening.

      Spread the Word
      • Email this article to friends or colleagues
      • Share this article on Facebook or Twitter
      • Write about and link to this article on your blog
      • Local relevancy? Send this article to your local press

      Over the past 12 months, ISRAEL21c has reported on exciting news in cancer research from Israeli laboratories. We present 10 of the most promising advances here with our hope that breast cancer may soon be relegated to history.

      1. IceSense 3

      IceSense freezes out breast tumors.
      The novel Israeli medical device IceSense3, made by IceCure, is already helping American doctors destroy benign breast lumps by freezing them. In June, a leading Japanese breast surgeon started clinical trials using the minimally invasive, ultrasound-guided procedure to successfully obliterate small cancerous tumors as well. Similar trials will soon begin in the United States.

      The cryoablation process takes five or 10 minutes in a doctor’s office, clinic or breast center under local anesthesia. No recovery period or post-care is necessary, and there is no scarring.

      2. RUTH

      The Israeli company Real Imaging offers a no-radiation, no-contact alternative to mammography pioneered by electro-optical engineer Boaz Arnon and named in memory of his mother, who died of breast cancer in 2004.

      RUTH uses a new trademarked platform that enables automatic quantitative analysis of 3D and infrared signals emitted from cancerous and benign breast tissue. Results are interpreted by computer, with unprecedented accuracy in patients of all ages — 90 percent as opposed to 80% for mammography. Thousands of women have been involved in clinical trials for RUTH since 2007. The next step is CE and FDA approval.

      Real Imaging’s RUTH device.
      3. MarginProbe

      Dune Medical, a graduate of the Misgav Venture Accelerator, in June received pre-market approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for MarginProbe, its trademarked system that uses electromagnetic waves to identify possibly cancerous tissue on the edges of a breast tumor in real time. The application was based on data from a 600-patient study conducted primarily in the United States.

      MarginProbe is meant to improve on the current rate of 30 percent to 60% of women who must undergo secondary breast cancer surgery after a lumpectomy because the initial surgery failed to get rid of all cancerous tissue at the margins of the tumor.

      4. Monoclonal antibodies

      Herceptin, a frequently prescribed drug for blocking the chemical signals that stimulate uncontrolled growth of breast cancer cells, is one of an advanced class of pharmaceuticals called monoclonal antibody drugs. Currently, these drugs must be administered together with chemotherapy.

      The two-year-old Israeli company Immune Pharmaceuticals is developing a “guided missile” system, licensed from the Hebrew University, which encloses thousands of chemotherapy molecules inside a monoclonal antibody nanoparticle. The drug payload isn’t released until reaching the cancerous tissue.

      In addition, Immune is collaborating with the Weizmann Institute to develop antibody therapeutics targeting a growth factor that causes chemotherapy resistance in many patients with breast and ovarian cancer.

      5. Better biomarkers

      Tel Aviv University PhD student Livnat Jerby won a prestigious 2012 Dan David Scholarship for performing the first genome-scale study of the metabolic progression of breast cancer — an algorithm that can profile the traits of each individual patient’s tumor. These profiles help in studying the underlining mechanisms of the disease, classifying patients according to their prognosis and identifying potential metabolic biomarkers as a non-invasive, cost-effective means for early diagnosis and monitoring treatment efficiency.

      “The Holy Grail of our work is to provide the basis for rational drug discovery, aiming to find drugs that — unlike most conventional treatments — will harm only the tumor, and not the healthy cells,” Jerby tells ISRAEL21c. “We had some success with providing a new potential target for treating renal cancer and published those results in Nature. With breast cancer, we can apply the same computational tools to better diagnose and choose the best treatment for the individual patient.”

      6. An HIV approach

      Two Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School researchers have patented a protein encoded by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as a treatment to make radiation and chemotherapy more effective.

      This small peptide, dubbed 25-39, inhibits a substance involved in repairing DNA damage from cancer therapy. It’s important to prevent such repair in order to wipe out the cancer cells. Now the search is on for investment partners to further develop and commercialize the product that already proved itself in the lab.

      7. The gene that can suppress tumors

      It’s long been known that the p53 gene produces a protein that can suppress tumors. In 2012, a team at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem discovered that p53 also governs a mechanism that keeps cancer cells from invading healthy epithelial tissue. Most cancers, including breast cancer, spread through epithelial cells.

      Investors are being sought for clinical studies on breast-cancer patients. The long-term goal is to boost the group-control function of p53 to keep tumors from developing the capacity to spread.

      Gene p53 can stop cancer cells from invading healthy tissue. Illustration by permission of the journal Nature.
      8. Immunotherapy

      Two therapeutic vaccines against cancer are under development in Israel.

      Vaxil BioTherapeutics’ ImMucin, can be tailored to treat 90% of cancers by activating and enhancing the body’s immune system to seek and destroy cancer cells present in the body. The treatment causes no side effects, and can be taken indefinitely, like vitamins. ImMucin could be on the market in about five years.

      Vacciguard, another Israeli biomed startup, is introducing a technology for developing vaccines against cancer and a wide range of other diseases that currently have no effective treatments. The technology is based on the research of world-renowned Weizmann immunologist Prof. Irun Cohen.

      Vacciguard CEO Anat Eitan.
      9. Cancer “family trees”

      Israeli researchers from the Weizmann Institute and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology used computational biology to chart a unique “family tree” of cancer stem cells from living patients. The chart will help determine exactly how these cells divide and spread, as well as how they can survive chemotherapy treatments and remain latent in the body only to reappear with a vengeance at a later time.

      Preliminary results show that slow-dividing cancer cells are more likely to evade cancer drugs, whereas chemotherapy most commonly targets only rapidly dividing cells. The Israeli research points to a need for devising new treatments targeting slow-dividing cells.

      10. Weizmann Breast Cancer Research Program

      During 2012, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and the US Department of Defense were among overseas organizations awarding postdoctoral fellowships at the Breast Cancer Research Program at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot.

      Current projects within this program focus on better diagnosis and treatment options, such as using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in an advanced noninvasive method to detect malignant breast tumors without biopsies; and in evaluating the effectiveness of hormone therapy for breast cancer. Another Weizmann team recently revealed new details about a crucial mechanism that controls the first stage of breast cancer metastasis

      • MA
        October 6, 2012 at 11:44 am

        Plant and protect a Saudi or Kuwaiti or Qatari or Behraini Shah in Israel; sanction Israel like you sanction Iran; don’t let any Zionist near power achelones in US as you do with Muslims and then I’ll see how Israel makes theseprogresses you are so proud of.

        • borat
          October 6, 2012 at 4:54 pm

          F.U. w/your antisemitic bullshit

      • paschn
        October 12, 2012 at 1:24 pm

        In the spirit of your comment, let’s peruse yet another list of the many “contributions” to a better world;


        Revealing, eh?

  3. bobzz
    October 5, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    Sanctions never work on the leaders of the state or the military. They create misery only for innocent, ordinary citizens. And the rebound is more enemies for those applying the sanctions.

  4. paschn
    October 7, 2012 at 2:50 am

    I don’t donate to biased “news” agencies….bye.

Comments are closed.