Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

U.N. Sanctions All Glory And No Guts; Iranians Should Be Breathing A Sigh Of Relief

Posted in Iran by Dan on June 10, 2010

Iranians all giddy about the U.N.'s new sanctions resolution

The work of the U.N. Security Council is finally over after a grueling 6 months of intense face-to-face negotiations.  Late yesterday evening, the Council finally voted- and passed- a new resolution to impose a 4th round of international sanctions against Iran for its refusal to abandon uranium enrichment and for its less-than-cooperative attitude towards international nuclear inspectors.

The final draft was about 10 pages long, most of which reaffirmed what was previously said about Iran’s nuclear program a few years ago under the Bush administration: Iran needs to start acting like an honest and transparent state about its nuclear ambitions, and if Tehran continues on its present course, than a whole host of financial restrictions awaits them.  The punishments that are mentioned in the resolution include a travel ban for Iran’s most powerful officials in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a ban on military trade with the Iranian regime, economic pressure directed towards companies associated with Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs, and an ability to stop an incoming Iranian vessel if a country suspects that the ship contains military equipment.

But a far more important gesture than the list of punishments is the fact that Russia and China- two countries that have normally been Tehran’s defenders in the U.N. Security Council- went along with the American led sanctions push.  The final tally was 12-2, with one country abstaining from the vote entirely.

Sounds all well and good, correct?  Unfortunately, the financial and military restrictions could have stronger and a lot more effective.  The United States only secured Russia and China’s support after it dropped some of the more controversial aspects of the document, like an all-out ban on trade and commercial exchange with the Islamic Republic.  Overall, the sanctions are watered down to the point of meager symbolism.  Sure, all five major powers endorsed the resolution, but what’s the point of passing a resolution if the only way to gain endorsement is by weakening its measures?  This is exactly what occurred with yesterday’s U.N. vote; in exchange for its cooperation, Moscow and Beijing would still be allowed to do business as usual with the Iranians.  In fact, under the resolution’s current conditions, the Russians could sell state of the art missiles to the Iranian Government (the S-300 missile)…missiles that would make a future American or Israeli air raid on Iran’s nuclear facilities all the more difficult.

So what’s the final evaluation?  Well, overall, it’s a 50-50 split.  The United States got the support it needed to muster the vote through.  But it failed to garner a unanimous vote, with Brazil and Turkey casting “no” votes and Lebanon abstaining.  Additional pressures are intact, but they are still weak enough to let Iran squeak by without any substantial consequences.  It’s a long shot that Iran’s behavior will change.

In short, the entire process may have been a diplomatic show without any substance.  Iran will continue to enrich uranium, progress with its nuclear program, and there is nothing the U.S. can do to stop it, short of a disastrous military option.

Not much for six months worth of work.

-Daniel R. DePetris

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