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Sanctions Against Iran Fall Short

By Miami Herald, Miami Herald - June 12, 2010

The United States managed to win Security Council approval for new sanctions against Iran this week, but don't bet that this will slow down Iran's drive to acquire nuclear capability.

The Security Council vote may be a diplomatic victory for the Obama administration, but it falls short as an effective mechanism to deter Iran from its quest for nukes. The administration labored mightily to build a coalition for a resolution that would make it harder for Iran to obtain nuclear technology and finance commercial operations -- without drawing a veto from Russia and China, Iran's trade and investment partners.

The new sanctions restrict the ability of Iran's banks to finance international deals. They add Iranian companies to the names on the commercial embargo. Nations are authorized to inspect cargo ships bound for Iran suspected of carrying nuclear material.

Watered-down resolution

But winning Russian and Chinese support came at the cost of the ``crippling'' sanctions Mr. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton originally sought. The result is a watered-down resolution with limited effect. Neither a Russian-assisted nuclear plant in Iran nor Chinese investment in Iranian oil fields will be affected by the sanctions. The Iranian economy will not be seriously harmed.

It's unlikely that the Security Council resolution -- the fourth and stiffest set of sanctions imposed against Iran for its reckless behavior -- will bring the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the negotiating table. The Iranian leader dismissed the new sanctions as ``annoying flies, like a used tissue.'' His U.N. envoy, Mohammad Khazaee, vowed that Iran would not be deterred.

Just as troubling as the softening of the resolution was the inability of the Security Council to show unanimity in the face of Iran's continued defiance of the international community. No country voted against the three previous sanctions, but the vote in the Security Council on Tuesday was 12-2, with Brazil and Turkey voting No and Lebanon abstaining.

This is likely to be taken by Iran as a sign of weakening resolve by others and a measure of its own political muscle. Just a year ago, Ahmadinejad's regime drew international condemnation for the brutal suppression of peaceful protests against its fraudulent elections. Now those deadly actions seem to have been forgotten.

Dissenting voices

It is unclear exactly what Turkey and Brazil hope to accomplish by giving aid and comfort to Mr. Ahmadinejad and his cohorts in Tehran. There is room enough in the Western coalition for dissenting voices, but if the point is to show independence from the United States and its European allies on foriegn policy, the Iranian issue is the wrong place to do it.

If this misguided support strengthens Iran's resolve to become a nuclear power, it increases the likelihood of an eventual showdown with Western powers that profits no one. As a result, the failure of Turkey and Brazil to stand shoulder to shoulder with the international community on this important vote makes the world a more dangerous place.

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