The United Nations Security Council Thursday passed a fourth sanctions resolution against Iran for its insistence
on enriching its own uranium under its nuclear program and for what the
resolution described as insufficient cooperation with the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA).
Experts criticized the U.S. policy of continually seeking
tougher sanctions on Iran by pointing out how ineffective it is.
Former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and current
director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics said the chance that the new resolution would get Iran to
acquiesce to U.S. demands is �virtually zero.�
Apparently validating that assessment, Iran responded immediately by shrugging off the resolution. �Nothing
will change,� said the Iranian ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh. �The
Islamic Republic of Iran will continue uranium enrichment activities.�
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad replied, �The resolutions you
issue are like a used handkerchief which should be thrown in the dustbin. They
are not capable of hurting Iranians.�
The international community first learned in 2003 that Iran
had for 18 years been concealing its nuclear program from the IAEA, in
violation of its obligations as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
But since that time, Iran has allowed IAEA inspectors into
the country to monitor its program. Iran insists that its program is peaceful,
but the U.S. and its allies charge that Iran intends to develop nuclear
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said on Monday, �While the agency continues to verify the
non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran, Iran has not provided the
necessary cooperation to permit the agency to confirm that all nuclear material
in Iran is in peaceful activities.�
He said such cooperation included Iranian acquiescence to
the Security Council�s demand that it halt uranium enrichment and
implementation of the Additional Protocol, which is a further agreement NPT
members may voluntarily sign that allows the IAEA even greater access to their
In Iran�s case, however, adoption of the agreement is being
treated as though it were a legally obligatory measure. Amano described Iran as
being a �special case� in describing Iran�s adoption of the Additional Protocol
as being �necessary� in order for IAEA for inspectors to do be able to do their
Iran charges that the Security Council�s sanctions resolutions are themselves illegal,
and that the U.N. has no authority to demand that it cease enriching uranium.
The NPT does in fact guarantee that it is the �inalienable
right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use
of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,� which legally means that no one,
including the IAEA Board of Governors and the U.N. Security Council, can tell
Iran that it can�t enrich uranium so long as it isn�t doing so in order to
produce a nuclear weapon.
The former director general of the IAEA, Mohammed El-Baradei,
had repeatedly noted that there was no evidence that Iran actually has a
parallel weapons program.
Prior to taking over the office, Amano had similarly
said, �I don�t see any evidence in IAEA official documents about this,� in
response to a question about whether Iran was seeking to develop nuclear
Iran has so far only produced low-enriched uranium (LEU),
not the highly-enriched, weapons-grade uranium required to manufacture a
Western media reports commonly assert that Iran has begun producing �higher-enriched
uranium,� or similar language, but in fact this is a reference to Iran�s
enrichment of uranium to 20 percent for its research reactor in Tehran.
Uranium must be enriched to 90 percent or more in order to
manufacture a weapon.
Iran has previously been enriching to only the 3.5 percent
necessary to fuel civilian power plants.
Expert analysts agree that if Iran were to actually enrich
uranium to weapons-grade and produce a nuclear bomb, it would first have to expel IAEA inspectors.
Moreover, it would likely take at
least two years for Iran to acquire the other technical capabilities
required to manufacture a bomb from the time that the decision was made to
pursue that course.
The new measure, resolution 1929, passed with a vote of 12
in favor and 2 opposed.
Brazil and Turkey, which recently entered into an agreement
with Iran to have uranium shipped to Turkey for enrichment there, voted against
the resolution. Lebanon abstained from the vote.
Ban Ki-moon previously described the agreement, known as the
Tehran Declaration, as a potential positive step, but the U.S. has sought to
downplay its importance.
The Brazilian representative stated
that sanctions would not be effective, but �would lead to the suffering of the
Iranian people and play into the hands of those on all sides who did not want a
peaceful resolution of the issue.�
It also undermined Brazil�s efforts with Turkey to engage
Iran diplomatically, and �would delay rather than accelerate or ensure progress.�
The Turkish delegate similarly expressed his country�s deep
concern �that the adoption of sanctions would negatively affect the momentum
created by the Tehran Declaration and the overall diplomatic process.�
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, �We disagreed with their vote. But I
can understand from a diplomatic perspective why they might be able to make a
convincing case for how they voted today.�
Clinton had previously acknowledged that the goal of U.S. policy
towards Iran was to gain support for �crippling sanctions� to punish the
country for its defiance of the U.S., suggesting that punishment, rather than
actual progress towards verifying the peaceful nature of Iran�s program, is
itself Washington�s endgame.
The U.S. ambassador, Susan Rice, denied that the sanctions
were �aimed at Iran�s right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,�
despite the fact that the U.S. has led the effort in demanding that Iran halt
enrichment regardless of whether or not there was proof that Iran had a
parallel weapons program.
President Barack Obama said the resolution �will put in place the toughest
sanctions ever faced by the Iranian government.�
He also said it �was not inevitable,� suggesting that it was
Iran that had not been willing to engage diplomatically with the U.S., and not
�We made clear from the beginning of my administration that
the United States was prepared to pursue diplomatic solutions to address the
concerns over Iranian nuclear programs,� he said, adding that the U.S. had made
the offer to Iran of better relations �if -- and only if -- it lives up to its
international obligations� -- the usual euphemism for demands issued from
Obama added, �And I want to be clear: These sanctions do not
close the door on diplomacy.� Iran could �take a different and better path,� a
reference to the U.S. demand that Iran not enrich its own uranium.
For Iran, the whole point of a dialogue would be to
negotiate on that point.
The U.S. policy, which consists primarily of this ultimatum,
thus effectively renders �diplomacy� moot and administration rhetoric about �engaging�
Iran virtually meaningless.
The Obama administration�s policy of demanding that Iran
halt enrichment is a continuation of the Bush administration�s policy towards
the Islamic Republic. Like Bush, Obama has preferred the dual threat of
sanctions and military action to serious engagement with the Iranian
Obama told Newsweek last year that he had �been very clear� that
a U.S. military attack on Iran would not be taken �off the table,� a position he
repeated in April of this year.
In addition, he issued a further threat against Iran in
April, saying that the U.S. �will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons
against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty and in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation
Since the U.S. charges that Iran has not lived up to its
obligations under the NPT, this logically means the U.S. could use or threaten
to use nuclear weapons against Iran -- a statement which itself constitutes a
direct threat of violence.
The U.N. Charter forbids member nations from not only from
using, but also from threatening to use force in international
relations, a fact of international law which Washington perpetually disregards.
As political analyst and historian Gareth Porter
wrote, �The Barack Obama administration�s declaration in its Nuclear
Posture Review (NPR) that it is reserving the right to use nuclear weapons
against Iran represents a new element in a strategy of persuading Tehran that
an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites is a serious possibility if Iran does
not bow to the demand that it cease uranium enrichment.�
With the new resolution, the Security Council decided �that
Iran shall not acquire an interest in any commercial activity in another State
involving uranium mining, production or use of nuclear materials and technology.�
It also forbids member nations from the sale or transfer to
Iran of conventional military equipment, including �battle tanks, armoured
combat vehicles, large caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack
helicopters, warships, missiles or missile systems,� and forbids Iran from
developing ballistic missiles that could potentially be capable of delivering
The resolution thus could be interpreted as effectively
seeking to impair Iran�s ability to maintain a defensive capability against the
continual threat of either a U.S. or Israeli attack against its nuclear
The U.S. has long sought to get China and Russia, two other
permanent members of the Security Council, on board for further sanctions against
Iran, but a lesser known fact is that Israel has also been working behind the
scenes to this end.
The New York Times reported Thursday that �a high-level Israeli delegation�
travelled to Beijing in February �to explain in sobering detail the economic
impact to China from an Israeli strike on Iran.�
An Israeli official said their Chinese counterparts �really
sat up in their chairs when we described what a preemptive attack would do to
the region and on oil supplies they have come to depend on.�
The Israeli Foreign Ministry issued a statement in response to the passage of the
resolution saying, �The Security Council�s decision is insufficient, and it
must be accompanied by additional steps against Iran outside the Security
Council,� a reference to their desire to see the U.S. and its European allies
adopt more severe sanctions of their own.
R. Hammond is an independent political analyst and editor of Foreign Policy
Journal (www.foreignpolicyjournal.com), an
online source for news, critical analysis, and opinion commentary on U.S.
foreign policy. He was among the recipients of the 2010 Project Censored Awards
for outstanding investigative journalism.