Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Less than ideal

... but sometimes you take what you can get.

The financial sanctions against Iran have been loopholed; same same in practice for the EU version of the sanctions.
WASHINGTON (Kyodo) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday the United States has decided to exempt Japan and 10 European countries from its new financial sanctions against Iran over the latter's suspected nuclear weapons program as they have significantly reduced their oil imports from Tehran.
Why this is bad: Sanctions can't be drawn slowly and have an effect that shocks the economy of the target nation. If done after much drum-beating, even sudden sanctions are simply a motivation for a prepared target to act aggressively as long as their stockpile hold out. We've seen this before. (cf. 1940 Oil and Scrap Iron Embargoes against Imperial Japan)

Why this is good: It is a short-term loophole, renewable every 180 days. Those are often misused, but this time it buys time, because...

Japan can't do much more vis Iran without hurting Japan more than hurting Iran. They've already cut 40% over the last five years.
With Japan's efforts to cut such imports, the country has been asking for an exemption for Japanese financial institutions involved in oil transactions, Japan's top government spokesman said.

''Our country, sharing the concerns of the United States and members of the international community over the Iranian nuclear issue, is working with the global community in dealing with Iran based on the approach of dialogue and pressure,'' Fujimura said.

Finance Minister Jun Azumi separately said to journalists that Japan may keep cutting Iranian oil imports in a measured manner.
You can amend that very diplomatic "may" to a "will" unless a lot changes in Iran very quickly. Some Japanese businesses have a history of being famously amoral about origin of resources, but they are also mortally terrified of supply interruption. Iran being what it is today, and with the international opposition to that (finally) rising to an effective level, supply interruption is a real possibility.

Expect Japan to quietly live up to the eventual goal of leaving Iran in financial isolation, just not today.

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