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Patrick S. O'Donnell

I think the use of sanctions in the case of apartheid South Africa was effective, nonetheless, since that time it seems liberals and conservatives alike have too readily resorted to them as a foreign policy instrument. I recall only a handful of voices opposed to the use of sanctions in the case of Iraq, and it was largely those with a deep knowledge of Middle East history and politics and an ability to distinguish the Hussein regime and the Ba'th Party from civil society in the country (e.g., those affiliated with the Middle East Research and Information Project), with a corresponding capacity to imagine the harm (which was soon documented or confirmed insofar as that was possible) which would be inflicted on those "on the ground," far from the nodes and hierarchy of power in the country. Indeed, it was the former who invariably suffered owing to their relative lack of power while the powerful were able in significant respects to avoid their grosser consequences.

In the case of Iran I suspect we'll find the sanctions will not, in the end, bring about their ostensible aim (to say nothing of the criteria that will be used for such an assessment), in which case the U.S., members of the E.U., and Israel will have sufficient pretense to resurrect the barely concealed desire to bomb Iran.* Were it that the relevant parties demonstrated an equivalent concern for the only existing cache of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, namely those possessed by Israel,** and a true commitment to a nuclear-weapons free zone in the Middle East.

*See Noam Chomsky's article, "The Iranian Threat," available online here: http://www.zcommunications.org/the-iranian-threat-by-noam-chomsky-1

**See Avner Cohen's The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel's Bargain with the Bomb (2010).

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