Apples, Oranges and Sanctions

Jewish Light Editorial

Faced with lopsided, veto-proof approval in both houses of Congress, President Donald Trump wisely pledged to sign into law sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea. 

He initially voiced strong opposition to the bill because it would place restrictions on his ability to modify some sanctions without congressional approval. Given his impulsive, erratic behavior — and the continued investigation of his election campaign’s possible collusion with Russia — that change is welcome. 

Russia has already lashed out because of the bill. President Vladimir Putin reacted by expelling hundreds of U.S. diplomats and other personnel from Moscow even before Trump signed the measure.

Without question, Russia deserves condemnation for its increasingly bellicose actions of the past few years: its seizure of Crimea from Ukraine, its attempts to interfere with the internal affairs of Ukraine and Georgia, and its aggressive expansion of its military presence in support of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. Russia’s major intervention in the Syrian civil war has all but won the war for the murderous Assad and his Iranian and Hezbollah allies. And its attempts to meddle in last year’s election deserve special attention and retaliation. 

As odious as Russia’s actions have been, they hardly rise to the level of the increasingly dangerous actions and rhetoric coming from North Korea and its unhinged dictator, Kim Jong Un. The fiery North Korean leader launched a second long-range ballistic missile over the weekend. It landed in the Sea of Japan, but it is believed to have a range capable of striking major cities in the mainland United States. 

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Trump’s efforts to get China to rein in Kim have not been successful. If Kim is able to attach a nuclear tip to one of those long-range missile, he will become a major menace not only to South Korea and Japan, but to the entire world. Sanctions are justified, but it is doubtful that they will deter Kim from his deranged quest to become a nuclear threat.

Including Iran in the sanctions package is also questionable. Trump signed off last week on a finding that Iran has complied with its nuclear agreement with the United States and other nations. Though Iran continues to be a major sponsor of terrorism, for the United States to unilaterally slap new sanctions on Tehran might put our European allies in an awkward position.

The sanctions bill seems like apples-and-oranges foreign policy, not the wise, deliberative statecraft that the world requires.