Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Working Towards New U.N. Sanctions Against Iran

A staple of a certain brand of foreign policy thought in Washington is the insistence that sanctions never work.

A number of influential adherents of this point of view are ensconced in the Bush administration.

These types are being dragged crying and screaming towards diplomatic solutions. Sanctions are, of course, one of the more punitive tools short of war. We all know too that the administration is partial to coercive techniques.

It once scoffed at the viability of international sanctions as a diplomatic tool. But the Bush administration, convinced that punitive financial measures played a role in moving North Korea to accept a deal designed to shut down its nuclear operations, is now spearheading a multilateral effort to use sanctions to turn the screws on Iran and its nuclear program.

Representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany are expected to begin work in New York this week on a second resolution of sanctions against Iran. The idea is to preserve Security Council unity – keeping Tehran's friends China and Russia on board – while ratcheting up the pressure on Iran. ...

The new resolution, which officials say could reach a Security Council vote as early as the middle of the month, is expected to expand on and strengthen steps taken in a first resolution passed against Iran in late December. Senior officials from the six key countries discussed the contents of a second resolution in teleconference calls last Thursday and again Saturday, but they didn't come to agreement on all the points of a final text.

"This is going to be an incremental resolution," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday, referring to the ratcheting up of sanctions already in place.

Among the measures being considered, according to US and European officials, are expansion of the list of Iranian officials whose assets would be frozen, a travel ban on more Iranians who are involved in the country's nuclear research and development, and additions to the list of parts, material, and technology that would be banned from Iranian trade.

The United States also hopes to see further restrictions on export credits, or financial measures that encourage trade. European governments, among others, have provided these credits to companies trading with Iran. Moreover, the US wants to limit access that Iran's largest banks have to international markets.

But a proposal for an embargo on all arms trading with Tehran was dropped last week on Russian objections, officials said. Also scuttled was a ban on student visas for Iranians studying subjects such as nuclear physics. ...

The administration may have adopted a diplomacy-with-threats approach to Iran, but some analysts say the strategy confuses US partners and encourages the Iranians to focus on ways to exploit it.

"The Bush administration thinking seems to be that every successive resolution will be stronger and that combining that with the increased pressure of measures like a second aircraft carrier in the Gulf, you can pressure Iran into acquiescing," says Ray Takeyh, an Iran expert at the Council on Foreign Relations here.

"On the surface it's not an unintelligent blueprint," he adds, "but it doesn't seem to include an understanding of its impact on the Iranians. They can't comprehend the contradictions." To back up his point, Mr. Takeyh says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been talking about conditions for opening up trade with Tehran, while Treasury officials have been pressing the international community to cut off trade with Iran.


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