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Jewish groups applaud the boycott of Iranian
products, but do such tactics work?
JAMES D. BESSER WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT
or months, Jewish organi-
zations have been ham-
mering at the Clinton
administration to get tough
with Iran. Part of the Jewish ef-
fort is based on a straightforward
assessment of the risk posed by
the fanatics in Teheran, who con-
tinue to export terrorism and Is-
lamic extremism that threatens
Israel's existence, as well as the
fragile Middle East peace talks.
That threat is growing expo-
nentially as Iran accelerates its
quest for weapons of mass de-
And part of the Jewish reac-
tion is based on the fact that Iran
is one of precious few issues that
pro-Israel forces, increasingly di-
vided on fundamental Middle
East questions, can agree on.
So, for one reason or another,
most Jewish leaders are pleased
with the president's recent deci-
sion to impose strict new sanc-
tions that will ban all commerce
with Iran. That action will elim-
inate the yawning loophole
through which American com-
panies have done more than $4
billion annually in business with
And most Jewish groups are
interested in a bill by Sen. Alfonse
D'Amato, R-N.Y., which would
carry sanctions one step further
and impose a secondary boycott
on foreign companies that do
business with Iran.
But the battle against Iran
may not be so simple. First, there
is precious little evidence that
sanctions and boycotts work.
The United States has been
boycotting Cuba for some three
decades in an attempt to make
life uncomfortable for Fidel Cas-
tro. It hasn't worked-, despite the
demise of communism through-
out Europe, Castro remains at
the helm in Havana, and there is
no evidence that the boycott has
done anything except add to the
misery of the Cuban people.
We sought to limit Saddam
Hussein's crazy expansionist vi-
sions. All we got in return was
the Gulf War and an Iraqi regime
that continues to destabilize the
The only obvious example of
effective sanctions were those
imposed on the apartheid gov-
ernment of South Africa, which
worked because they were ap-
plied in concert by most of the de.
That last fact brings up an-
other tough issue for the admin-
Sanctions against Iran will be
only effective if allies in Europe
and the Far East agree, and they
are not responding enthusiasti-
George Bush has already re-
ceded into the mists of history,
but he had one thing right: In
dealing with renegade nations,
top priority goes to enlisting wall-
to-wall support from America's
allies, reluctant as they may be.
The administration's new pol-
icy will be meaningless unless
they are willing to play hardball
in pressing countries like France
and Germany to join our boycott,
and especially to stop providing
Iran with the materials it needs
to build advanced weapons.
That requires energetic diplo-
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