U.N. imposes another round of sanctions on Iran

President Obama is welcoming the U.N. Security Council's new sanctions against a defiant Iran over its nuclear program, saying it sends an 'unmistakable message' to Tehran.
By Colum Lynch and Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 10, 2010

UNITED NATIONS -- After several months of grueling diplomacy, the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday imposed a fourth round of sanctions on Iran's military establishment -- a move that the United States and other major powers said should prompt the Islamic Republic to restart stalled political talks over the future of its nuclear program.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the foreign ministers of allied nations asked the European Union's chief diplomat to pursue talks with Iran at the "earliest possible opportunity," and President Obama asserted that "these sanctions do not close the door on diplomacy."

"We think that the sanctions send a kind of message to the entire Iranian leadership, which is quite diverse in their assessments and reactions, that there is still an opportunity for you to participate and to work with us," Clinton said after the 15-nation council adopted Resolution 1929 in 12-to-2 vote, with Brazil and Turkey casting no votes and Lebanon abstaining.

The diplomatic outreach was aimed at underlining the commitment of the United States and its allies to moving beyond punishment to cooperation with the Iranian government. But it also appeared calculated to shift the burden to Tehran to decide whether it will embrace negotiations with the United States and other key powers.

After Wednesday's vote, Iran's U.N. envoy, Mohammad Khazaee, sounded a similarly defiant note, saying the United States and its allies will "never be able to break our determination."

'Tough, strong'

Even as Washington pushed for resumed talks, American and European officials indicated that Tehran may face a new wave of sanctions by individual countries and regional blocs if its refuses to comply with measures adopted Wednesday.

Clinton, traveling in Latin America, told reporters that the United States would move forcefully to ensure enforcement of the sanctions, which she said would make it easier to "slow down and interfere" with Iran's nuclear program.

Still, the resolution fell short of the "crippling sanctions" that she had pledged to impose on Iran a year ago, and the Obama administration was unable to secure a unanimous vote at the Security Council, as the Bush administration did on other sanctions resolutions on Iran.

The administration did succeed in preserving support from China and Russia, although only after assuring them that the measures would not impair their ability to continue trading with Tehran.

"These are tough, strong and comprehensive sanctions that will be the most significant of all of the resolutions that imposed sanctions on Iran," Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in an interview. "The fact that the Iranians have exerted so much effort and spent so much money to block this from coming into effect is one of several indications that they really don't want these sanctions adopted and enacted."

Pushback felt

The U.S. effort to rein in Iran's nuclear program encountered its first major pushback from regional powerhouses, Brazil and Turkey, which had negotiated a deal with Iran that involved the transfer of low enriched uranium. On Wednesday, Clinton and her allied counterparts vowed to seek to engage Iran in talks on the deal.

Brazil's U.N. ambassador, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, nevertheless, faulted the United States for prematurely abandoning the diplomatic track. Turkey offered a more measured response, saying that it recognized that the United States and its partners had legitimate concerns.

"Our vote against the resolution should not be construed as indifference to the problem emanating from Iran's nuclear program," said Turkey's U.N. ambassador, Ertugrul Apakan.

The resolution will reinforce a range of existing economic, high-technology and military sanctions against Iran, encourage states to pursue Iranian vessels suspected of transporting banned materials and strengthen the United Nations' capacity to monitor enforcement. It steps up pressure on banks and insurers to sever ties with Iranian entities linked to Iran's nuclear program. And it freezes the assets of various officials, including the head of the Iranian atomic energy agency, as well as of 40 entities tied to the nation's military elite.

The sanctions target 15 companies linked to the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and Security, said the passage of the resolution represented an "important victory for the United States," in part because it strengthens the United States' negotiating position. He added: "This creates more pressure on countries, even China, to deny Iran the ability to buy sensitive equipment illegally."

But others disagreed. Flynt Leverett, a former National Security Council expert on the Middle East, called the sanctions "substantively weak."

"There are a number of 'optional' sanctions, particularly with regard to financial services," Leverett said. "The net effect of these 'optional' sanctions, which will be pursued by the United States and some of its allies, but no one else, will be to reallocate business opportunities in Iran from Western states to China and other non-Western powers."

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