I read alot these days holding that, with Iran convulsed by post election turmoil, we should hold off placing more economic sanctions on the country. We should let the “Twitter and YouTube” revolution take out the recalcitrant regime of Almahdinejad. Placing more sanctions now will only allow the regime to regain influence by pointing to the “foreign devil” as the real enemy of the people.

I have two comments. First, I do not share the presumption held by many in the USA that there is vast unrest in Iran with the people ready to shuck the theocracy. While Almahdinejad may not have gotten 40 million votes in the election, it is clear that the vast majority of the voters voted for him. Since the 1980s there has been a very vocal group in the USA repeatedly saying that the “silent majority” composed of the young, the educated, and the pro-western will rise up and toss out the mullahs and their running dogs. Well thirty years later the mullahs still control the country.

My second comment relates to the effectiveness of economic sanctions. In my diplomatic career I contributed to, presented and implemented economic sanctions. As a first time officer I blocked an illegal shipment of arms under a US embargo on arms shipments to certain warring parties. My largest role in sanctions was to write a small part of the Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 that banned much trade with, and investment in, South Africa. As a reward I was sent to our post in Johannesburg to enforce the sanctions. My major role there was to explain how the sanctions affected specific cases and insure that no one violated the rules. I was also the US speaker at the largest conference on sanctions ever held in South Africa, a conference held by the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce. I did not respond to the attacks levied against the sanctions by the South African speakers, but did carefully explain what they were, and how they affected various business transactions.

Some years ago, at a luncheon hosted by the German Consul General in New York City, his wife, at whose side I was seated, turned and asked, “Mr. Cecchini, what do you think about sanctions, do they really work.” She had obviously read or heard about my work with sanctions. I replied that I had not seen any government fall or even make major changes because of economic sanctions. Nor did the sanctions ever really cause any serious dislocation in trade and investment. I explained that there are always ways to get around sanctions. However, I went on to say that, in spite of the reality of sanctions, I fully supported them. I told her that I supported them because they are a clear and unequivocal demonstration of our opposition to a regime. Yes, you can dismiss them as simply an elaborate public relations program, but the message is clear, “we don’t like what you are doing and we are no friend of yours.”

I urge the Obama administration to continue economic sanctions against Iran, especially now that Germany and France seem prepared to ratchet up the sanctions pressure on Almahdinejad. I do not envision bringing down the mullahs. However, we must continue to clearly show our opposition to Iran’s attempt to gain nuclear weapons and our dismay with its regime.