Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:
The United Nations Security Council has passed a new, tougher Iran sanctions regime by a vote of 12-2, with Brazil and Turkey voting against and Lebanon abstaining. This will not create enough pressure to end Iran’s nuclear recalcitrance, but it’s a significant achievement nonetheless. It send a strong message to the Iranian people that the world–even friends like Russia and China–considers their government an international outlaw. That means something; it will have an impact on the growth and depth of the political opposition movement (and may eventually sway some of the crucial bazaaris, whose businesses may be affected by the sanctions, against the Revolutionary Guards’ dictatorship). We’ll see, over time, if Iran responds to diplomatic pressure; it often has done so in the past.
The no votes by Brazil and Turkey are a matter of concern and sadness. Obviously, those two emerging powers aren’t feeling too pleased that their lame bid at nuclear diplomacy with Iran fell flat. They should be included–indeed, they should be front and center–when Iran is ready to return to the table; indeed, their initiative could be the start of the next round of negotiations. They could be valuable intermediaries between Iran and the rest of the world.
Michael Rubin at The Corner:
It is a blessing that Turkey is on the United Nations Security Council. For the first several years of Erdogan’s premiership, Turkish diplomats tried to be all things to all people, and, as so often happens with American diplomacy, we were willing to accept insincere Turkish statements in closed doors rather than listen to what the Turkish leadership was saying publicly. Today, Turkey decided definitively to side with Iran.
I am reminded of 1990, when Yemen represented the Middle East on the Security Council and did not vote to condemn Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. It is a vote that Yemen watchers still remember, 20 years later. Turkey’s vote today is similar.
A question for Obama and Secretary of Defense Gates: Given Turkey’s slide toward Iran, are you really willing to sell the Joint Strike Fighter to Ankara? Do you really want to supply that technology to a country, albeit for now a NATO member, where the government might simply transfer the technology to adversaries that seek to kill Americans?
This further round of sanctions is unlikely to stop Iran if it is set on making a bomb. The sanctions add a list of heavy weapons that may not be sold to Iran, and forbid Iran to develop ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. They lengthen slightly a list of Iranian officials and institutions on which various travel and financial restrictions are imposed. Perhaps most prominently, the resolution calls on countries to board ships bound for Iran and inspect their cargo, to enforce the resolution (if the country flagging the ships agrees, which is a big if).
What the resolution does not do is take a bite out of Iran’s main economic activity, the sale of its oil and gas. China made sure of that. As symbolic a blow as the vote is to Iran, these are not the “crippling” sanctions that the most fretful Iran-watchers have called for.
If these sticks are unlikely to do the trick, what of the carrots? The last annex of the resolution reiterates the P5+1’s offer from 2008 to recognise Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear power and to co-operate in areas from aviation to trade to security if Iran will suspend enrichment and enter a larger dialogue. The resolution now throws the focus back on Iran’s response. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president, is likely to continue his public theatrics against the Western powers and Israel. But the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, holds a great deal of power in Iran. It remains to be seen whether the new sanctions, combined with some muted sweet-talk from the P5+1 can change his mind.
Noah Pollak at Commentary:
Let’s review how we got here: The “reset” with Russia that was supposed to earn cooperation on Security Council sanctions merely taught Russia that Obama can be defied, cost-free. China noticed, and has joined the hands-off-Iran coalition. The “daylight” policy of being rude to the Israelis as a way of unifying the Arabs behind the peace process and against Iran has only left Israel isolated and the Arabs in disarray. Obama’s review conference for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and his calls for a nuclear-free Middle East have been easily manipulated to deflect attention from the threat to American interests — Iran — to the threat to Iranian interests, Israel.
The world has noticed Obama’s inability to get serious: Russia and China are now joined by Brazil and Turkey in openly thwarting the president’s meek effort to confront Iran. You know your enemy has lost respect for you when he admits, as Jalali does above, that you’re not even making it hard for him anymore.
Jonathan Tobin at Commentary:
So, like the three previous rounds of UN sanctions on Iran, we can expect this latest one to have no impact on either Iran’s willingness to buck global displeasure over the nuclear issue or its ability to proceed with its plans.
All of which leaves us asking the Obama administration, what now?
In theory, the new UN sanctions could prompt the United States and other Western powers to unilaterally impose far harsher sanctions by themselves. But that move will take even more months of negotiations and would almost certainly not include Russia and China, countries that have played a major role in enabling the Iranians to avoid paying the price for their nuclear ambitions. With force off the table and little hope of a truly crippling round of international sanctions, what does Iran have to worry about?
Though the administration is busily spinning recent developments as proof that the year they wasted trying to engage Iran helped build support for sanctions, the fact remains that Iran is not only a year closer to its nuclear goal but also in a stronger political and diplomatic position today than it was 12 months ago. Having completely suppressed domestic opponents in the wake of their stolen presidential election, the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad regime can also now point to the acquisition of two important foreign allies: Brazil and Turkey, both of whom are now firmly in Iran’s camp. And those two countries can say that the mischief they are making on Iran’s behalf is no different from what President Obama tried to do himself during his long unsuccessful attempt to appease Tehran.
Just as bad is the fact that over the past year, Obama has allowed the Iranians and their friends to establish a false moral equivalence between their nuclear program and that of the State of Israel, a country whose very existence requires a nuclear deterrent that Iran’s does not. The United States’s vote last week in favor of a resolution at the UN nonproliferation conference, which called on Israel to open up its nuclear facilities, is a clear signal that the Obama administration’s faltering resolve on Iran is matched by its ambivalence about the Jewish state and its security needs.
The bottom line is that far from today’s UN vote being a cause for celebration or even satisfaction over the fact that the world is finally paying attention to the threat of a nuclear Iran, it may well be a better indication of the West’s slide toward ultimate acquiescence to Iran’s goals.
Max Fisher at The Atlantic with the round-up
Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy:
Now that the U.N. Security Council has passed its new sanctions resolution against Iran, the path is clear for Congress to move forward with its own, tougher set of sanctions.
Lead sponsors Sen. Chris Dodd, D-CT, and Rep. Howard Berman, D-CA, had agreed to give the administration more time to complete the U.N. track before reconciling the Senate and House versions of Iran sanctions legislation. After an unusually public first session of the conference committee, work has been quietly proceeding at the staff level and is finishing up now.
The sequencing here is important. Congress is also waiting until the European Union has a chance to meet and announce its own set of measures. That meeting will happen June 16 and 17 in Brussels. After that, Congress will have two weeks to unveil its bicameral bill before lawmakers leave town for the July 4 recess.
“We now look to the European Union and other key nations that share our deep concern about Iran’s nuclear intentions to build on the Security Council resolution by imposing tougher national measures that will deepen Iran’s isolation and, hopefully, bring the Iranian leadership to its senses,” Berman said Wednesday. “The U.S. Congress will do its part by passing sanctions legislation later this month.”
Hill sources say that it’s still unclear whether Congress will be able to pass the conference report out of both chambers before the July 4 recess, as Dodd and Berman promised. But they see the passing of the U.N. resolution as the needed signal to move the conference process to its final conclusion.
“Now that the U.N. vote is behind us, there is a strong case to be made that the sanctions should be as strong as possible,” said one congressional aide working on the issue. “We’ve now begun the process of what is essentially the last, best hope of stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”
Still, even among sanctions advocates, there’s great skepticism that Iran can be convinced to change course.
“The good news is that everything is going according to plan,” the aide said. “The bad news is that the plan might not work.”