Analysts Say US Sanctions on Iran, Libya Ineffective, Overused
The US Congress has virtually assured a five-year extension of a law that would penalize non-US companies that exceed investment limits in the energy sectors of Iran and Libya. But analysts told Radio Free Europe (RFE) that the measure was not effective enough and overused.
The aim of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, known by its English acronym ILSA, is to indirectly punish both countries, which are widely accused of sponsoring international terrorism. But some observers say the sanctions -- and many like them -- are not as effective as they are meant to be.
Kenneth Allard, a former US Army intelligence officer who now is an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington policy foundation, told RFE that it was difficult to determine the effectiveness of ILSA.
But Allard noted that ILSA might be less effective because it involved sanctions imposed unilaterally by the US, and because the penalties had been waived every time a non-US company violated the sanctions. Besides, sanctions have become a common way for America to confront problems overseas.
"We [America] tend to pass sanctions almost at the drop of a hat. We really do. It's a very, very overused instrument of international policy."
Frank Cilluffo, another foreign policy analyst at the CSIS who specializes in terrorism, intelligence, and national security, was quoted as saying that the unilateral sanctions were ultimately ineffective if not enforced.
"Sanctions, unless they're strictly enforced, could actually have the opposite effect and impact, wherein it's a pretty blunt instrument when what we're trying to deal with here is something that needs very specific and discrete leverage, rather than sort of like trying to hit a gnat with a sledgehammer."
Both Cilluffo and Allard said Bush was right to seek a shorter extension of the sanctions regime, two years instead of five. They said the president needed to be able to act in a timely manner if he saw convincing evidence that Iran, for instance, was reforming. Cilluffo added:
"I've always been of the school of thought: Never negotiate out of fear, but never fear to negotiate. So if you can get sort of indications and very direct messages coming out of Iran that they are willing to adhere to a global set of norms, however you want to define that, you obviously want to take advantage of any opportunity you can. And if they don't you can always tighten the screws later."
Under ILSA, the president can impose a variety of sanctions on foreign companies that exceed the investment limit. They include forbidding imports of the companies' products or getting loans exceeding $10 million from a US bank.
The Associated Press reported that Congress sent the legislation to President Bush Friday, after it was passed by a voice vote and with no debate.
Both countries have been accused of involvement in international terrorism. Lawmakers of both parties say the sanctions make it harder for the two countries to finance terrorist groups and acts with income from oil profits and other forms of business.
The current Iran and Libya Sanctions Act, enacted in 1996, expires August 5.
According to the agency, many US allies with companies that do energy business oppose the sanctions, and no company has faced sanctions since the law took effect – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)