Turtle Bay

Security Council passes Iran sanctions resolution

A divided U.N. Security Council on Wednesday imposed a fourth round of financial and commercial sanctions on Iran’s military establishment, bringing to a close more than six months of grueling diplomatic efforts by the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama to penalize Tehran for building a covert nuclear facility and accelerating its enrichment of uranium. ...

A divided U.N. Security Council on Wednesday imposed a fourth round of financial and commercial sanctions on Iran’s military establishment, bringing to a close more than six months of grueling diplomatic efforts by the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama to penalize Tehran for building a covert nuclear facility and accelerating its enrichment of uranium.

The 15-nation council adopted the resolution by a vote of 12 to 2. Brazil and Turkey voted no, citing concern that the U.S. and other key sponsors of the resolution did not exhaust diplomatic efforts to resolve the nuclear standoff with Tehran. Lebanon, which has a complicated history of Iran ties, abstained.

The resolution falls short of the "crippling sanctions" U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged to impose on Iran after U.S. intelligence officials presented evidence a year ago that Iran was constructing a clandestine nuclear reactor at Qom. But U.S. officials hailed today’s vote as a show of international resolve in the face of Iran’s continued defiance of Security Council resolutions demanding it suspend its uranium enrichment program.

"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, told Turtle Bay in an interview before the vote. "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. I think they share our views quite frankly that these are a significant and serious set of new sanctions."

Iran’s U.N. ambassador, Mohammad Khazaee, said Iran would not comply with the council’s demands, saying the U.S. and its allies will "never be able to break our determination."

"As one of the most powerful and stable countries in the region Iran has never bowed and will never bow to the hostile actions by these few powers and will continue to defend its rights," Khazaee said.

The Obama administration succeeded in securing support for sanctions from the council’s permanent members, including China and Russia, by watering it down to ensure it would not impair their ability to trade with Iran and by including explicit assurances that it would not be used a pretext for future military action. But the four-year-long campaign to rein in Iran’s nuclear program faced a new challenge from regional powerhouses, Brazil and Turkey, who have used the Iran crisis to assert their role on the diplomatic stage.

"Sanctions will most probably lead to the suffering of the people of Iran and will play into the hands of those on all sides who do not want dialogue to prevail," said Brazil’s U.N. ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, explaining his country’s decision to vote against the resolution. "Past experience, most notably the case of Iraq shows that the spiral of sanctions, threats, and isolation can result in tragic consequences."

After the vote, the U.N.’s five major powers on the council issued a joint statement calling on Iran to restart talks on its nuclear program. They also pledged to engage Iran in talks on a deal to swap Iranian low-enriched uranium for a supply of more purified form of uranium to be used for a medical research reactor in Tehran.

In voting against the resolution, Turkey said that it shares U.S. concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. "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. "There are serious question marks within the international community regarding the purpose of Iran’s nuclear program and this needs to be clarified. We call upon Iran to show absolute transparency about its nuclear program and demonstrate full cooperation with the IAEA in order to restore confidence."

The 10-page resolution would modestly reinforce a range of economic, high-technology and military sanctions against Iran, and slaps an asset freeze and travel ban on the head of the of Iranian atomic energy agency, Javad Rahiqi, and 40 entities linked to the nation’s military elite, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iran has repeatedly rebuffed calls to halt its uranium-enrichment program; Iranian leaders say their efforts are entirely peaceful, but the United States and others say Iran is set on building a bomb.

The sanctions target 15 companies linked to the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including the Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters, which was involved in construction of the secret Qom facility. It imposes sanctions on 22 firms, including the First East Export Bank, involved in Iran’s nuclear and ballistic weapons program. And it also sanctions three entities controlled by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, which is accused of transporting illicit military goods to Iran.

Follow me on Twitter: @columlynch.

Colum Lynch is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy@columlynch

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