William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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WAIT A SECOND, LET'S REVIEW – AT 8:24 A.M. ET:  The Washington Post is rhapsodizing about the impact of new sanctions on Iran.  Why, the mullahs are in agony, suffering.  We may even have to start feeling for them.

New U.S. sanctions have broadened the front in the West’s escalating economic conflict with Iran, targeting large swaths of the country’s industrial infrastructure even as Iranian leaders are indicating a willingness to resume negotiations on the country’s nuclear program.

With Iran’s economy already reeling from previous sanctions, the new measures passed by Congress and signed by President Obama last week are intended to deliver powerful blows against key industries ranging from shipping and ports-management to the government-controlled news media, congressional officials and economic experts say.

While some previous U.S. sanctions targeted individuals and firms linked to Iran’s nuclear industry, the new policies are closer to a true trade embargo, designed to systematically attack and undercut Iran’s major financial pillars and threaten the country with economic collapse, the officials say.

“This is effectively blacklisting whole sectors of the Iranian economy,” said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, a think tank. “The goal is to create a chilling effect on all nonhumanitarian commercial trade with Iran.”

COMMENT:  Uh, now wait.  Isn't there a problem here?  The man Obama will nominate today as secretary of defense has opposed these sanctions.  How could a man who's opposed some of the most vital tools of the U.S. Government be named to head the Defense Department.  We are, readers, in never-never land.

Of course Hagel won't admit that he's opposed the sanctions.  He'll get up at his confirmation hearings and say that 1) his views have evolved, 2) he was misquoted, 3) he was misinterpreted, 4) he's on board and enthusiastic about sanctions despite virtually every public statement he's made about them in the past.  (See 1-3.)  And there will be people who'll believe him.

The crunch will come if the sanctions fail, and so far they've failed.  We have to have a credible military threat that is stark and compelling, to finally convince the Iranians to deal on their nuclear program.  But Hagel is already on record as opposing military action.  What does that do to our credibility? 

Great appointment, ay?

January 7, 2013