Two senators, Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Bob Menendez, have authored a bill to impose tougher economic sanctions on Iran if it ultimately refuses to honor the demands of the international community as regards its nuclear weapons program. President Barack Obama has now pledged to veto that bill. A few points to consider before trying to make sense of this news:
1. Obama himself has said inducing Iran to surrender its capability to produce nuclear weapons will be a difficult task; an understatement if ever there was one.
2. We are to believe that sanctions can work as a means of harnessing the behavior of an irrational actor like Iran, and we’re told specifically that sanctions helped bring the Iranians to the negotiating table.
3. States like Iran — ones that are unburdened by the niceties of Western diplomacy — negotiate on the basis of ruthless pressure. We saw an example of this when the Cubans used an imprisoned American aid worker as a hostage to secure favorable negotiating terms. To sit down across the negotiating table from such people requires the willingness to apply hard pressure in kind.