Friday, February 17, 2012

US officials believe Iran sanctions will fail, making military action likely

• Growing view that strike, by Israel or US, will happen
• 'Sweet spot' for Israeli action identified as September-October
• White House remains determined to give sanctions time

Chris McGreal in Washington, Friday 17 February 2012

"Officials in key parts of the Obama administration are increasingly convinced that sanctions will not deter Tehran from pursuing its nuclear programme, and believe that the US will be left with no option but to launch an attack on Iran or watch Israel do so.

The president has made clear in public, and in private to Israel, that he is determined to give sufficient time for recent measures, such as the financial blockade and the looming European oil embargo, to bite deeper into Iran's already battered economy before retreating from its principal strategy to pressure Tehran.

But there is a strong current of opinion within the administration – including in the Pentagon and the state department – that believes sanctions are doomed to fail, and that their principal use now is in delaying Israeli military action, as well as reassuring Europe that an attack will only come after other means have been tested....

Obama is also under domestic political pressure from Republican presidential contenders, who accuse him of vacillating on Iran, and from a Congress highly sympathetic to Israel's more confrontational stance.

Thirty-two senators from both parties introduced a resolution on Thursday rejecting "any policy that would rely on efforts to 'contain' a nuclear weapons-capable Iran". The measure was dressed up as intended to protect the president's back, but it smacked of yet more pressure to take a firmer stand with Iran.

One of the sponsors, senator Joe Lieberman, said that he did not want to discount diplomatic options but if the president ordered an attack on Iran he would have strong bipartisan support in Congress. Other senators said there needed to be a greater sense of urgency on the part of the administration in dealing with Iran and that sanctions are not enough.
Others are critical of sanctions for a different reason. Congressman Dennis Kucinich said this week he fears sanctions are less about changing Tehran's policy than laying the ground for military action. He warned that "the latest drum beat of additional sanctions and war against Iran sounds too much like the lead-up to the Iraq war"...."

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