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The Noose Slowly Tightens On Tehran

More countries are joining the West with new sanctions on Iran. Yesterday, it was Japan. The WSJ reports:

With the new sanctions, approved by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s cabinet Friday morning, Japan said it will freeze the assets of an additional 106 organizations, one individual and three banks, widening to more than 350 the circle of Iran-based entities believed to be linked to the country’s nuclear development program and subject to these restrictions.

Simultaneously, Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications company that “dominates” the mobile phone industry in Iran, announced it will be cutting back its business there:

Shenzhen-based Huawei will “voluntarily restrict its business development there [Iran] by no longer seeking new customers and limiting its business activities with existing customers,” according to a statement on the company’s website. It said the company was making the move due to “increasingly complex situation in Iran,” but did not elaborate.

This is the first time a Chinese company has decided to restrict its operations in Iran. Huawei, the WSJ reported in October, is cooperating with the Iranian government in tracking the locations of individuals of interest through their cell phones. (In response, Huawei officials noted that communications companies cooperate with police in many countries, including the US). While not a crippling blow to Iran’s telecommunications infrastructure, Huawei’s announcement is still significant, if only for the precedent it sets of Chinese companies distancing themselves from the mullahs.

Taken together, Japan’s new sanctions and Huawei’s back-step show the noose is slowly tightening on Iran. Neither of these new efforts will have a serious effect on Iran’s economy — Japan pledged to freeze bank accounts, not stop importing oil. Other communications companies will take Huawei’s place. But it is a sign — one reason Huawei has pulled back from Iran, suggests the WSJ, is because it wants to do more business in the US. From where Via Meadia sits, that looks like a message of good will.  The more Huawei moves in this direction, the more attentive VM hopes Washington is tots i interest in the US market.

With Europe and now Asia moving to isolate Iran, the mullahs’ core calculation — that time is on their side — is looking wobbly.  Important elements of their nuclear and missile program keep going unexpectedly awry.  Europe keeps tightening sanctions and raising the diplomatic stakesran’s one reliable ally Syria keeps weakening and the sanctions spread to more companies and countries, time is actually working for the US.

The US needs to keep ratcheting the pressure up, strengthening the international coalition and making sure that the mullahs know we mean business.  A peaceful solution is still by far the best outcome and should be our constant goal, but the ground is becoming more favorable and not less so if we and our allies need to take things to the next level.

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