The Swiss and Iran (JERUSALEM POST EDITORIAL) 04/22/12)
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Switzerland, a pivotal banking giant and one under whose aegis much
international trade is transacted, is crucial in imposing meaningful
sanctions on Iran. Swiss dillydallying can do proportionally greater
harm than equivocation on part of other states the same size.
Unfortunately, the Swiss have long failed to put their money where
their mouth often is. They persist in doing the wrong thing – or in
not doing the right thing – despite much sanctimony.
Last week, we were informed that while Switzerland has purportedly
extended financial sanctions against Tehran, it stopped short of
freezing the assets of the ayatollahs’ central bank and of imposing
an oil embargo in line with actions taken by other Western powers in
view of Iran’s ongoing nuclear project.
The Swiss Federal Council did freeze the assets of eight Iranian
firms and three Iranian individuals but it did not extend its
sanctions to the Iranian central bank, because, in the words of the
Swiss Economics Ministry, that bank “is important for the Iranian
But that is precisely the logic of sanctions – to hit Tehran where it
hurts, not to lightly rap it on the wrist. The word from Bern is that
it would reconsider at a “later date” whether to ramp up its
That is bad news, because Switzerland is not one of Iran’s dubious
autocratic hangers-on such as Venezuela or Syria, and it is not a
Russian or Chinese ally. Hedging on sanctions by seemingly
enlightened Western governments underscores why these sanctions –
imposed by both the EU and US – have always looked better on paper
than in the real here-and-now.
Their major flaw – hardly the only one – is the probability that not
everyone will adhere to them.
We aren’t talking about blatant, provocative defiance, as in the
cases of Iran’s circle of best friends, nor of countries less
ideologically confrontational but with various economic and
geopolitical axes to grind (such as Russia along with a host of
former USSR components, China and other East Asian states).
European democracies – like Switzerland – should for their own good
be in the vanguard of the struggle to defend Free World interests
against a rogue regime with nuclear ambitions. Currently this
struggle is limited to doubtfully adequate measures, making it all
the more imperative that Western democracies do their utmost to
meticulously abide – at the very least – by these feeble strictures.
Otherwise, they are a lost cause and little more than a cover-up for
Switzerland imports Iranian oil indirectly, but Swiss energy giant
Elektrizitätsgesellschaft Laufenburg had proceeded with a projected
pipeline to transport the fuel via Turkey. Previously it signed a
mega-deal to import more than 5 billion cubic meters annually of
Iranian gas valued at 18 billion euros.
This wasn’t the private vagary of an insubordinate firm. It was
sponsored with fanfare by the Swiss government itself. Then-foreign
minister Micheline Calmy-Rey mounted a pilgrimage to Iran
to “witness” the 2008 signing of that momentous gas-supply contract.
Sporting a sheer white head scarf, she accorded the transaction her
government’s stamp of approval and lent the occasion high profile,
prestige and legitimacy.
An unrepentant Calmy-Rey intoned that that “Switzerland is an
independent country which has its own strategic interests to defend.”
To this must be added Switzerland’s prolific lip service to its much-
vaunted neutrality. It is imperative, especially considering
Switzerland’s sullied World War II history, for it to stay mindful
that neutrality cannot possibly justify inaction in the face of evil.
In such circumstances, the claim of neutrality facilitates evil, such
as Iran’s genocidal plot. Inaction can be tantamount to complicity.
Sanctions are imposed to make it difficult for a regime that
endangers world peace to carry on unhindered. That is their
objective. Money is fungible. Whatever isn’t denied Tehran – given
the tyrannical nature of the regime – could well go to funding
terrorism or nuclear weapons development.
The Swiss are not that naive. They are nobody’s fools. They should
not make fools of the rest of the world. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem
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