Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies has been intimately involved in helping to craft sanctions efforts. But he, too, recognizes that sanctions alone are insufficient. He e-mailed me: "[Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei and his Revolutionary Guards are not distracted by debt-ceilings, Arab awakenings and re-election campaigns. They are driving ruthlessly forward on their nuclear weapon program while we delude ourselves into thinking that sanctions are a silver bullet that will stop them." He contends, "Sanctions are an important part of a comprehensive Iran policy that needs to include the real threat of force. But where's our Iran policy, how is it comprehensive, and who is in charge?"
In fact, with the departure of sanctions czar Stuart Levey from the Treasury Department and the administration's lackadaisical stance toward everything from Syria to an increasingly aggressive Russia, it's fair to say there is no one in charge of this or any other critical national security initiative.
As far as Iran goes, Dubowitz cautions that "if our Iran policy was truly comprehensive, we'd be doing everything possible to bring Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad down as Khamenei does all he can to keep Assad in power. If Assad crushes the democratic uprising, he will be like a wounded animal, even more dependent on Tehran for his survival. And we would have lost an enormous opportunity to weaken the Iranian regime."
For now, it seems we lack an effective policy for halting Iran's march toward status as a nuclear power. As Dubowitz puts it, "When it comes to countering Iran, we like to give the impression that we are further ahead than we are. But is the progress we're making rhetorical or real?" The answer at this point is obvious
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