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US, EU Unilateral Sanctions: Dimensions and Consequences

By Dr. Seyed Hossein Mousavi, President, Center for Scientific Research and Middle East Strategic Studies
Translated by Iran Review

The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929 had been just adopted when Washington, followed by the European Union, enforced a new round of separate and stricter sanctions against some Iranian companies, banks and persons. The sanctions include articles which had not been covered by Resolution 1929 and had been already rejected by two permanent members of the Security Council, namely, China and Russia, when the United States and UK offered their draft resolution.

Reacting to new US and EU sanctions, Moscow was the first permanent member of the Security Council to note that unilateral sanctions by the United States and EU were against regulations of the Security Council. Other permanent and nonpermanent members of the Council, especially China, Turkey, and Brazil are supposed to take sides with Russia in protest to unilateral sanctions imposed by Washington and EU.

This article focuses on factors prompting US and EU to further expand anti-Iran sanctions and delineates future outlooks for relations among permanent members of the United States and their joint work on Iran's nuclear case.

1. There is no doubt that, as protagonists of Resolution 1929, the United States and UK have not been able, in consultation with other permanent members of the Security Council especially Russia and China, to convince them endorse more austere sanctions. However, they could not withdraw their proposed draft. Therefore, they amended some articles to appease Russia and China and achieve minimal consensus among permanent members of the Council over the fourth sanctions resolution. Russia has noted time and time again that what Washington and London had originally proposed for the fourth sanctions resolution went far beyond what was actually adopted on the floor of the Security Council. Therefore, apart from paragraphs on inspecting the Iranian ships, the new resolution is basically not different from its predecessor. This is not meant to make Russia and China look innocent with regard to Resolution 1929, but it just points to tremendous pressure put on Moscow and Beijing by western countries, led by the United States, to accept a minimum of new pressures on Iran. Moscow has reiterated that new sanctions resolution should, by no means, affect the situation of the Iranian private sector. Russia, for its part, advocated "smart sanctions formula." However, as unilateral sanctions by the United States and EU are enforced in excess of Resolution 1929, the true intent of these countries is unraveling and, most probably, Russia, China, and even some nonpermanent members of the Security Council, which voted positive to Resolution 1929, will conclude that what the United States and EU aim for is far from simply making Iran suspend uranium enrichment. Thus, the United States and the European Union are using the Security Council as a tool to justify their unilateral measures against Iran and this can ultimately have negative impacts on relations between US and EU, on the one hand, and other Security Council members, on the other hand. In reaction to new sanctions against Iran by Washington and EU, an expert on US foreign policy has noted that the United States and its western allies are still using the same formula which they had applied to Iraq in the first half of the 1990s. That policy culminated in the occupation of Iraq by the United States and its western allies without mandate of the Security Council. They even ignored frequent pleas by the then senior inspector of International Atomic Energy Agency, Hans Blix, who insisted that the deadline for inspecting Iraq's military facilities should be extended.

2. Expansion of sanctions against Iran by the United States and EU just a few days after adoption of the Security Council Resolution 1929 will further widen the rift among permanent members of the Council and may even undermine Resolution 1929 because Moscow has already indicated that its consent to Resolution 1929 has been conditional on permanent Security Council members not expanding its scope by unilateral measures. Therefore, it is possible for Moscow and Beijing to have serious doubts about future cooperation with western countries over Iran's nuclear case and, especially, over implementation of Resolution 1929. Recent remarks by the Russian nuclear authorities about completion of Bushehr nuclear reactor in the near future and statements about possible resumption of negotiations with Tehran over S-300 missile system all point to Russia's exasperation with the approach taken by the United States and European Union to Iran's nuclear issue. Moscow and Beijing are, at least, expected not to be serious about practical implementation of the whole content of the fourth anti-Iran resolution because Washington has been trying to bypass international efforts. Although the gap among them will not be as deep as Iran expects, it is sure to overshadow further discussions in the Security Council over the next three months when the UN Secretary-General is to submit his report on Iran's compliance with Resolution 1929. Such differences, as noted before, will not make China or Russia use the right of veto to thwart US policies, but they will provide Russia, China, and even members of the United Nations with good grounds to ignore the contents of Resolution 1929 one way or another. By imposing unilateral sanctions on Iran, the United States and EU have not only bypassed the mechanism of the Security Council, but have also reduced role of nonpermanent members to simply helping them buy international legitimacy for their wild whims. This may deal serious blow to legal status of the Security Council making UN member states come to desperate conclusion that the sole international body with global legitimacy has gradually become a tool at the hands of some permanent members, especially the United States, UK and France while other members are just extras that serve the interests of Washington and the aforesaid western states.

We must wait until September to see how UN member countries will react to unilateral measures taken by the United States and EU. Undoubtedly, the next fall will be quite a hectic time for the UN, especially the Security Council, and until then, countries will assess long-term goals of the US and the EU and come to conclusion that Resolution 1929 should be approached cautiously by avoiding hostile measures against Iran, like reducing banking cooperation or inspecting Iran-bound ships.

3. Right after adoption of Resolution 1929, Iran's political circles and international observers raised a host of questions about the positive votes cast by China and Russia and, to find answers, they focused on such factors as high trade volume between the United States and China and conclusion of START II treaty between Moscow and Washington requiring both sides to diminish ballistic missile stockpiles. Iran, however, expected Beijing and Moscow to prevent adoption of tougher sanctions and take sides with Tehran, especially in its nuclear talks with 5+1. However, early announcement of Russia's support for the forthcoming resolution shocked Iranian analysts and caused President Ahmadinejad to deliver his famous speech in Kerman in which he bitterly rebuked Kremlin leaders. Such disputes have caused relative freeze in Iran-Russia relations. However., the main point which seems to have been missed by strategic analysts in Iran and Russia is that although China and Russia have great interests in relations with the United States and although ethics and neighborly relations do not usually affect such decisions, there is an important point behind new Iran approach in foreign policies of China and Russia which should be carefully taken into consideration. First, attention should be paid to balanced relations between China and North Korea and unchanging quality of those relations in the past decades. China has, thus far, managed to cushion international pressures against Pyongyang and North Korea owes a lot to China's foreign policy. If North Korea can still refuse to play by the rules of international game in a unipolar world led by the United States, it is because Pyongyang is a powerful ideological and strategic ally for Beijing. In other words, North Korea has replaced China equation for international equations and this has allowed North Korea to beef up its security. Back to Iran, it seems that both Russia and China have reached the conclusion that Iran should play by the rules of international game and respect those rules. The support accorded to Resolution 1929 by Moscow and Beijing, despite their efforts to take its edge off, should be assessed in view of Iran's strategic interests in international scene. Iran needs supporters, if not allies, in international confrontations, but should also pay due attention to the rules of international power game and global developments when dealing with a sensitive issue like the nuclear case. It seems that both China and Russia have realized in recent months that Iran does not intend to follow the rules of the game. If successful, entering Turkey and Brazil as new variables to nuclear swap equation could have stripped traditional world powers like the United States, EU, and to some extent, Russia and China of their age-old monopoly over settlement of international crises. Thus, emerging regional powers like Turkey would have been involved in solving international and regional political disputes and this could have been a beginning for the falling power of the United States and EU. An important point which has been frequently missed by political observers is that although US, Russia, and even China hailed endeavors by Turkey and Brazil to pull the exchange of Iran's enriched uranium off to a favorable end, all of them are equally wary about the rise of new powers capable of influencing regional and international disputes. Let's not forget that when a country plays a pivotal role in a sensitive case like Iran's nuclear crisis, other countries' role will wane. This will also spread to other fields of those countries' influence and allow the emerging power to be in a better position for settling disputes by adopting fairer approaches to regional and international disputes. Israel, for example, has been very concerned about the role of Turkey in Arab-Israeli conflict because for a few decades, Tel Aviv has been pitching Arabs and Jews against each other as opposite poles and has prevented that conflict from being handled through other approaches, especially an ethical one.

The next few months will constitute a crucial juncture in history of Iran's international relations. I doubt that new sanctions will be more effective than previous ones in view of their scope and Iran's experience in dealing with them. However, let's not forget that if we are not able to remove enemies' pawns one by one, at least, we should engage in a smart game and make the most of our own pieces until the country has weathered the existing dire straits. Review of the 30-year history of the Islamic Revolution will reveal that despite longstanding unilateral sanctions by the United States and other western states as well as four sanctions resolutions adopted by the Security Council, Iran has evolved into a major regional power strong enough to scare adversaries. This means that sanctions have multiplied Iran's incentives to rely on its own capabilities in a ruthless modern world. However, we must not forget that those capabilities are meant to increase, not decrease, the country's national security index.

About Iran Review: Iran Review ( is the leading independent, non-governmental and non-partisan website - organization representing scientific and professional approaches towards Iran's political, economic, social, religious, and cultural affairs, its foreign policy, and regional and international issues within the framework of analysis and articles.

... Payvand News - 07/06/10 ... --

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