Will new Iran sanctions work?
The UN Security Council has approved new sanctions against Iran over its controversial nuclear program, but will they work?
This fourth round of sanctions is tougher than past penalties and the previous third round imposed on Iran.
The new set sanctions call for a ban on Iranian purchasing activities related to ballistic missiles that are capable of delivering nuclear warheads, bars Iranian nuclear-related investments and financial activities, and prohibits Iran from buying several categories of heavy weapons such as attack helicopters and missiles. The sanctions also identified specific organizations, companies and individuals to be targeted by these actions.
The resolution was approved with 12 votes in favor. Brazil and Turkey both voted against the measure while Lebanon abstained. Iran has said that further sanctions will not be effective and that it will recede further away from the negotiating table and continue its nuclear efforts.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “I think it is fair that these are the most significant sanctions that Iran has ever faced and the amount of unity that has been engendered by the international community is very significant.”
While the Obama administration maintains that these are the toughest sanctions to date, the sanctions are a lot less than the crippling sanctions requested by Clinton last year.
Many claim that the sanctions are not harsh enough, while others say this fourth round of sanctions are doomed to fail as past sanctions have already done, no matter the severity.
While the resolution outlines voluntary measures that are not mandatory for all nations to enforce, Leonard Spector, a nuclear non-proliferation expert with the Monterrey Institute of International Studies said, “I’d say they [sanctions] are stronger than they look.”
Spector argues that the voluntary measures will be enforced in full by the United State, Europe and Japan, making a significant impact on the government and those who are directly related to the Iranian nuclear programs.
Dahr Jamail, an independent journalist, agrees that the sanctions will have an impact, but it will not be on Iran’s nuclear program.
“According to even the state of Iran’s own estimates, they have 40 million of the 73 million people in their country living in either absolute or relative poverty. This is the segment that’s really going to be hit the hardest. I think even much more so than the any attempt by the regime to build a nuclear weapons program,” said Dahr.
Dhar further argued that Israel is the real problem, not Iran, and that if more attention was given to reign in Israel Iran would not need to strive to protect itself from a potential threat. He felt a diplomatic solution that worked to pull Israel into the non-proliferation treaty and utilized diplomacy to ensure Iran does not feel threatened by Israel is the best option. Iran has continually cited the double standard with Israel in their unwillingness to fully cooperate with negotiations.
Spector however said that diplomatic means alone are simply not enough.
“There needs to be enough pressure on Iran that when they come to the bargaining table they are ready to cut a deal,” said Spector.
Like Spector, former US assistant secretary of commerce Christopher Wall agrees the sanctions are necessary. However, he argues that the sanctions are too weak.
Wall recognizes that the new sanctions are stronger than previous rounds, but argues they do not go far enough and are not likely to bring the results the United States is hoping for.
Sara Flounders, the director of the International Action Center and the Stop War on Iran Forum says the severity does not matter because they are merely a political act.
“It is really an effort by the US to divert attention away from the nuclear weapons that Israel has,” said Flounders.
She continued, “This is an effort to, once again, use the Security Council as a political weapon to impose sanctions on a developing country that is fully within its rights to develop nuclear energy.”
Flounders argues that the UN Security Council vote was based on US pressure, not evidence that Iran has or plans to develop nuclear weapons.
“I would have to take strong disagreement with the assertion that Iran has not demonstrated its capacity to develop weaponized nuclear power and also a ballistic missile program that clearly threatens its neighbors and will destabilize the Middle East. I think it’s impossible to ignore that,” said Wall.
Although Wall is not a supporter of these specific sanctions, he does support the use of sanctions to pull Iran in line with the IAEA.
If Iran wanted to take a positive step in resolving the conflict and moving forward it simply needs to open up and become more transparent in the development of its nuclear endeavors. Wall however feels the previous Brazil brokered Turkey-Iran fuel swap deal. While a good gesture, is not a solid plan to address the problem, which is Iran’s unwillingness to cooperate with the IAEA.
However, Flounders argues that the US is not actually interested in securing an agreement with Iran.
“The US wants to be in a position to continually make more and more and more demands on Iran and at the same time there are absolutely no demands being put on the nuclear weapons Israel in fact holds,” said Flounders.
The sanctions are likely to have a limited impact on the targeted programs, but will not likely end them. Wall said military actions, including the bombing of Iran, could be considerations moving forward.
J.P. Freire, associate editor of commentary at the Washington Examiner, argues the sanctions are really the best the UN could do to achieve a compromise.
“These are just a moderately stepped-up version of the sanctions that were passed before. I can’t really say that this is Obama coming down hard; it’s a little bit of posturing. I also don’t think that they think these are going to be particularly successful,” said Freire
Freire said this shows a change in the Obama approach to diplomacy.
“Obama had once said that he felt that if they unclenched their fists that they could finally embrace hands. It’s becoming clear that this world view, this idea that you can simply get what you want through talking that that’s not something that’s working out,” said Freire.
Freire also believes that the Brazil brokered Turkey-Iran fuel swap deal fell short, arguing the Iran’s goal is to construct nuclear weapons and releasing a portion of their uranium was not even a good faith gesture. The dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program would have been the only gesture able to truly display a willingness to cooperate.
Author and activist Phil Wilayto disagreed.
“There is absolutely no proof that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons,” said Wilayto.
Wilayto argued that the resolution demands Iran stop enriching uranium, which is a right of any nation seeking to utilize nuclear energy.
On the other hand, Freire argued the sanctions target the secrecy, lack of transparency and threats made against Israel by Iran. Iran has made it clear that they want to secure greater military power and have directly threatened the existence of Israel as a state.
Wilayto contends that the choice to enact sanctions was made by a small group of nations who are current nuclear powers and does not reflect a truly global decision made by the world’s nations.