'We know that deception is part of [Iran's] DNA." So said Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman last week, testifying to Congress about the next round of negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear programs. So why is Ms. Sherman pleading with Congress to delay imposing additional sanctions for the sake of what she called "confidence building"?
How depressingly predictable: Iran lies and prevaricates—about the breadth of its nuclear programs; about their purpose; about the quality of its cooperation with U.N. nuclear watchdogs; about its record of sponsoring terrorism from Argentina to Bulgaria to Washington, D.C.; about its efforts to topple Arab governments (Bahrain) or colonize them (Lebanon); about its role in the butchery of Syria; about its official attitude toward the Holocaust—and the administration thinks priority No. 1 is proving its own good faith.
Last month, the administration returned to Iran a 2,700-year-old silver cup shaped like a mythological griffin, which had been stolen from a cave in Iran a decade ago before it was seized by U.S. customs. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei must have been moved to tears.
Khomeini is long dead, but the regime's mentality of yielding only to intense pressure and credible threats of force remains the same. So how should the U.S. negotiate? Mark Dubowitz, who helped design some of the most effective sanctions against Iran from his perch at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, offered this:
"Effective on October 16, any financial institution providing Iran with access to, or use of, its overseas financial reserves for any purpose with the exception of permissible humanitarian trade will be cut off from the U.S. financial system." The idea is to push forward what Mr. Dubowitz calls Iran's "economic cripple date"—the moment when it runs out of foreign reserves—ahead of its "undetectable breakout date"—the moment when the regime can build a bomb in secret before the West can stop it.
I have my doubts about the use of sanctions as the main tool to change Iran's behavior. But if the administration means to use them as the weapon of choice, they should at least use them aggressively. Negotiations with Iran resume Oct. 15. Mr. Dubowitz's Oct. 16 deadline will do more to get their attention than griffins, cakes or other pathetic diplomatic sweeteners.