What's the point of sanctions if they exempt one of Iran's major trading partners?
Wall Street Journal:
The Obama administration reissued waivers that exempt nine countries, including China, India and Turkey, from fully complying with U.S. sanctions targeting Iran's oil exports, as the U.S. attempts to maintain international pressure on Tehran's finances.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington granted the exemptions to these countries for reducing their purchases of Iranian oil over the past six months, thereby helping force Tehran to cut its total oil production by one million barrels a day in September and October from a year earlier.
The other countries granted waivers were Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Taiwan. U.S. and European officials said they believe Tehran is losing around $15 billion every quarter in lost oil sales.
"A total of 20 countries and economies have continued to significantly reduce the volume of their crude oil purchases from Iran," Mrs. Clinton said. "This has reduced Iran's export volumes and oil revenues, which fund not only the nuclear program but its support for terror and destabilizing actions in the region."
Experts on Iran and the oil trade worry that the damage being inflicted on Iran's economy might not be sufficient to pressure Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to give ground on Tehran's nuclear work. The United Nations reported last month that Iran continues to expand its production of nuclear fuel and is moving closer to obtaining weapons-grade materials. Iran says it isn't seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
"While the sanctions are definitely having an impact, they're still not keeping up with Iran's nuclear clock," said Mark Dubowitz, who studies Iran's oil trade with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative think tank. "Iran is still winning,"
The U.S. and European powers are hoping to renew negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program this month.
The Obama administration has significant leeway in granting countries waivers, and doesn't set specific targets. Many Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, citing the abundant supply of oil on international markets, are arguing that the administration should set more stringent reduction targets.
The sanctions regime has been pretty much of a joke from the beginning. It took years to come up with stringent enough sanctions to cause any problems for Iran at all, and many of the most effective sanctions hurt the Iranian people more than they discomfit Iran's nuclear program or the government.
Way too little, way too late, and now we exempt one of Iran's major supporters in the UN. A total failure by any standard.