IRAN'S CURRENCY took such a breathtaking nose dive against the dollar last week that even the country's denier-in-chief, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had to admit that economic sanctions were cutting deep.
Tens of thousands of Iranian merchants, workers, shopkeepers and activists flooded Tehran's streets in protest, chanting anti-government slogans. Some shouted, "We don't want nuclear energy," a sign that the protesters rightly blamed the regime's refusal to stop its rogue nuclear program for causing the economic pain.
Inflation is raging in Iran. So is unemployment. People are angry. To stop Iran's outlaw nuclear program – the imperative here – the economic pain needs to get worse. Much worse.
Encouraging news: The Wall Street Journal reports that American and European Union officials are considering dramatically expanding sanctions by imposing "a de facto trade embargo" by early 2013. Such a move would block all export and import transactions through Iran's banking system. Current sanctions cover only oil-related transactions through Iran's central bank. Such a move could be devastating. Iran wouldn't be able to pay its bills or collect its debts through the global banking system.
Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois is drafting a bill to similarly expand U.S. sanctions against Iran, to be introduced in Congress soon.
One word of advice: Hurry.
Iran has spent the better part of a decade busting through red lines drawn by the West. Tehran now could produce enough weapons-grade fuel for a bomb within two to four months, although actually building a bomb would take longer, the Institute for Science and International Security said Monday.
A banking freeze could force the mullahs back to the bargaining table, this time in good faith.
Earlier this year, a group of former American, Israeli and British officials wrote that Iran's nuclear program might still be halted with a "potentially decisive economic blow to the regime." That would show the mullahs "that the world is serious and committed, willing to do whatever it takes to stop Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons."
Time for that blow. Embargo Iran.
To stop Iran's
outlaw nuclear program – the imperative here – the economic pain needs to get worse.