New U.N. Iran Resolution Considered
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
A draft U.N. resolution on Iran circulating among the world's major powers calls for new sanctions against the elite Quds Force and a top Iranian bank as well as "restraint" and "vigilance" on the supply, sale or transfer of arms to Iran, according to sources familiar with the proposal.
The draft, to be discussed today by political experts from the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, recommends freezing the assets of entities and individuals suspected of engaging in nuclear proliferation and weapons delivery systems or violating two earlier Security Council sanctions resolutions, the sources said. It also calls for a travel ban -- prohibiting entry or transit in all U.N. member countries -- for many of the same people.
The proposal specifically designates the Quds Force, the foreign operations branch of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, for exporting arms prohibited under previous resolutions and for proliferation activity. It is highly unusual for the world body to sanction a military wing of a member state, officials say. The proposed measure would freeze any of its assets abroad, make business dealings with it illegal and isolate it financially, they add.
The Quds Force numbers up to 15,000 and runs Tehran's foreign covert operations, including arms, aid and training for groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Iraq's Shiite militias, U.S. and European officials say.
The draft of the long-delayed third U.N. sanctions resolution is still being negotiated, and early versions are often tougher than the final product. But its scope is significantly wider than the two previous resolutions, even though it does not go as far as the sweeping sanctions the United States unilaterally imposed in October against the 125,000-member Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Quds Force, and three banks, officials say.
Officials from several countries said the proposal indicates that there is still an appetite for significant new punitive measures against Iran even after the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate last week concluded that Tehran had halted its nuclear weapons program four years ago.
"The international community is not being dissuaded by the NIE and is not going to be led down a cul-de-sac because of the noise of the moment. It's still focused on one salient fact. Iran can't run about defying the international community," said a European diplomat. A senior official from a second European country said the intelligence assessment "might complicate things . . . but we do not intend to lessen the pressure."
The resolution is not based on whether Iran has an active nuclear weapons program -- an issue about which the five veto-wielding countries on the Security Council have disagreed. After meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters that the NIE "fully confirms the information that we have: that there is no military element in their nuclear program" and added: "We hope very much that these negotiations with Iran will continue."
The European Union has spearheaded talks with Tehran on its nuclear programs and efforts to get it to cooperate with the international community now.
The new resolution instead focuses on Tehran's insistence that it will continue enriching uranium, a process that could in the future be subverted from a peaceful energy program to develop a bomb. Iran now has 3,000 functioning centrifuges, a major technical milestone, giving Tehran the capacity to produce tens of kilograms of low-enriched uranium each month.
On that issue, the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany do share deep concern, diplomats involved in the negotiations say.
"Iran is getting to a stage where they will have weapons-grade enriched uranium," said the European diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because negotiations are underway. "Iran is also still in breach of every resolution. Most of the allies -- although Russia and China are dragging their feet -- and a lot of the international community are trying to focus on this in a dispassionate way and say that they're not cooperating with the U.N. mandate."