Tuesday, January 30, 2007
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Why doesn't the EU have an OFAC?
Steven Weisman has a story in the New York Times evaluating the transatlantic effort to squeeze Iran. There have been a few bumps in the road:
European governments are resisting Bush administration demands that they curtail support for exports to Iran and that they block transactions and freeze assets of some Iranian companies, officials on both sides say. The resistance threatens to open a new rift between Europe and the United States over Iran.I suspect that most of the rift on this issue is related to the difference in economic interdependence between the US and EU when it comes to Iran. However, the lack of an institutional infrastructure on the EU side is not insignificant. The Europeans have never had the equivalent of OFAC -- the Office of Foreign Assets Control that oversees the nitty-gritty implementation of U.S. sanctions.
The question is.... why? Economic sanctions have been a popular policy tool for the past fifteen years or so. Economic power is the primary means through which the EU tries to exert its influence in world politics. A EuroOFAC would, one hopes, allow the Europeans to implemebnt sanctions more quickly, while at the same time allowing for more precise in their targeting.
So why hasn't it happened yet? Two possible reasons:
1) European countries are less sanctions-happy than the United States. This is true, but there's a chicken-egg problem with this story -- the EU doesn't sanction as often because the tools aren't there;I'm sure there are other reasons -- and I'mm sure my readers will inform me at great length about them.
This is part and parcel of a larger question, however -- to what extent does the EU really want to be seen as a great power? Is it willing to develop the traditional tools of statecraft that befit the moniker?posted by Dan on 01.30.07 at 08:09 AM
Isn't it simply that the Euros think Iran's nukes will never be aimed at them or at any country they like?posted by: JohnF on 01.30.07 at 08:09 AM [permalink]
There's nothing new about this.
When the Ottoman Turks besieged Vienna in 1683 they used French cannons (& other weapons), financed by Genoan credit.
This is how Europe works - it's their default mode.
What was remarkable and unusual was their willingess to work together during the cold war. Not the way they are acting now.posted by: Jos Bleau on 01.30.07 at 08:09 AM [permalink]
This is part and parcel of a larger question, however -- to what extent does the EU really want to be seen as a great power? Is it willing to develop the traditional tools of statecraft that befit the moniker?
As a European, I find this question quite amusing.
In sum, Steyn put it best, something along the lines of: "Americans have responsibilities, Europeans have attitudes."posted by: Varangy on 01.30.07 at 08:09 AM [permalink]
It is especially puzzling insofar as the Commission has developed all sorts of robust bureaucratic instruments over the years; i.e. it has the bureuacratic capability to do competition policy, review mergers, et cetera, but not to implement economic sanctions.posted by: Charlie on 01.30.07 at 08:09 AM [permalink]
It seems to me that the Europeans want to have it all, the ability to advocate for sanctions but not have to actually have to enforce them. It like the others have said. Let's have the right attitude, but let the Americans do the heavy lifting.
As a French I don't see Iran as a danger.
And they are not very , very dangerous.
For me Americans, seen the collapse of Soviet Union, try to find a new scapegoat : Arab countries ,Venezuela, France, Iran, Noth Korea.
You are prisoners of your Calvinist view (A French again). You are always searching for "bad doers" or evil country.
The problem is that the rest of the world don't see the world the same as you.
JLS would seem to provide evidence for JohnF's point (he was the first commenter).
I can't help thinking of Trotsky's statement, "You may not care about the revolution, but the revolution cares about you."posted by: Roger Sweeny on 01.30.07 at 08:09 AM [permalink]
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