ROAR: With new sanctions looming, “positive development” depends on Iran

Moscow describes the language of a new draft resolution on sanctions against Tehran as “adequate” and “acceptable,” but doubts remain about the prospects of the document.

Tehran may have to cope with new sanctions even despite the promise to co-operate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and swap in Turkey most of its 3.5 per cent-enriched uranium for 20 per cent-enriched fuel.

Iran says it needs the uranium for use in a medical research reactor. The West is afraid the deal will help Iran to win time, and the country will continue its nuclear program.

President Dmitry Medvedev said on May 17 that, after the new agreements between Iran, Brazil and Turkey, “urgent consultations are needed with the participation of all parties involved.”

It is still unclear how much uranium Iran may exchange in Turkey, Medvedev stressed. Also, if Iran intends to continue itself the enrichment process, as some officials in Tehran said, the international community’s concerns could remain, the president added.

Some Western leaders, including the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, described the deal as a positive move. At the same time, the Iran Six (France, Britain, Germany, the United States, Russia and China) continued to discuss a new draft resolution on new sanctions, trying to force Tehran to conclude accord with them.

On May 18, the UN Security Council received a new draft resolution. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the document was agreed by Washington, Moscow and Beijing. She was speaking at a hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee devoted to the US-Russia nuclear arms reduction treaty.

Clinton and US Defense Secretary Robert Gates stressed that the treaty would help improve ties with Russia and strengthen pressure on Iran and North Korea. Clinton had discussed the ratification of the treaty with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Moscow and Washington intends to ratify the document in the shortest time possible.

The media is speculating that the Iran resolution was also discussed during the conversation. The question remains if Moscow will support the tougher sanctions.

The Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, said on May 18 that the resolution would not hurt either economic activity in Iran or the civilian population.

However, Russia was not a co-sponsor of the resolution, Churkin noted. He made it clear it was the decision of the US, not Russia, to present the draft to the Security Council. But Moscow was comfortable with “the language in the draft,” he added.

The ambassador described the language as “adequate,” and noted it was “acceptable” for Moscow, because the document is focused adequately on non-proliferation matters.

He also hailed the efforts of Brazilian and Turkish leaders and said that Iran would send a letter to the IAEA and “certain positive development may emerge.”

To strengthen this development Tehran may take other steps and agree to hold talks “on the whole package of problems, including the Iranian nuclear program,” Churkin noted. However, so far there has not been a clear and understandable response from the Iranian side, he said.

France and Britain are reported to have welcomed the new draft resolution. China have not so far supported the new round of sanctions, but praised the initiative of Brazil and Turkey. The ten elected members of the Security Council have not commented on the submitted document.

Russia’s reaction to the US draft resolution may be similar to the deal between Iran, Brazil and turkey, some observers think. Moscow is studying the agreement, Kommersant daily said, adding that Iran may have tried “to use diplomacy and win time.”

“Tehran evidently expects that a protracted discussion and co-ordination of details of the reached agreement would start now,” the daily said. “And China, Iran’s main defender in the Security Council, has received an additional argument to block the efforts of the West which is going to impose tough sanctions against the Islamic Republic.”

Formally, Tehran has agreed to fulfill the conditions set by the West last year, the paper said. “At the same time, according to the assertion of the Israeli military intelligence, Iran has already overcome technological obstacles to create nuclear weapons,” it noted.

Vedomosti daily noted that the US has immediately demonstrated its skeptical approach toward the agreements reached with the mediation of the Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Washington stressed there was nothing fundamentally new in the deal. And the US has responded to the initiative “with sanctions,” the paper noted.

Meanwhile, the US mass media had said that it would be difficult to adopt tough sanctions in the Security Council in May under the Lebanon’s chairmanship, the daily said. To approve the resolution, the agreement of ten states of the 15 members of the Security Council, including five permanent members, is needed. Three non-permanent members, Brazil, Turkey and Lebanon do not support any sanctions.

“Taking into account the political situation around Iran, it is important to persuade non-permanent members of the council not to vote against the resolution, and at least abstain from the vote,” said Vladimir Sazhin of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

“In any case, the sanctions will be tougher than those that have already been imposed,” Sazhin told Vedomosti. The most effective sanctions could be in the energy sphere, including the ban on oil exports and petroleum imports, he noted.

It depends on Iran if there will be new sanctions, Sazhin said, adding that Tehran is yet to fulfill the main condition of the six countries. It has not stopped the process of enrichment and has not resumed the cooperation with the IAEA.

The agreement between three countries has not removed the issue of sanctions from the agenda, Gazeta.ru online newspaper said. If the resolution is adopted, Tehran will not be able to receive heavy weapons, sea cargo incoming to Iranian ports will be searched, and international control over Iranian banks will be strengthened, it noted.

“Diplomats describe the draft as a compromise, but the US side did not conceal that it has become as tough as possible, taking into account the position of Moscow and Beijing,” the paper said.

However, Brazil has said that “the breakthrough agreements” reached on May 17 “are being ignored by the permanent members of the Security Council” and made it clear it will not vote for the resolution, the paper said.

Earlier many observers doubted that Russia would support new sanctions. But the appearance of the agreed draft document “cut the ground from under those American politicians who singled out the Russian-Iranian co-operation as an obstacle for closer ties between Washington and Moscow,” Vremya Novostey daily said.

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review