UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The Security Council’s approval of a fourth round of U.N. sanctions on Iran on Wednesday is a key victory for the Obama administration but the steps are unlikely to halt Tehran’s nuclear program.
The 15-nation council passed a resolution that was the product of five months of talks between the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia. With 12 votes in favor, it received the least support of the four Iran sanctions resolutions adopted since 2006.
This resolution passed despite ‘no’ votes from angry Turkey and Brazil, which argued that sanctions were the wrong approach to take with Tehran, and an abstention from Lebanon. But analysts said the fact that all five permanent veto-wielding council members -- including Russia and China -- sent Iran a strong message.
“It’s a significant victory for the Obama administration,” David Albright, head of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), told Reuters.
“It shows that the U.S. can hold the P5-plus-one group together,” he said, referring to the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia. “It’s not a huge success but it’s a success.”
Originally President Barack Obama and his European allies had wanted tougher measures, including targeting Tehran’s oil and gas industries and a blacklisting of Iran’s central bank. Moscow and Beijing refused to support that.
Council diplomats say that although it is diluted, the resolution adopted is much tougher than Washington and its three European allies had expected when they began negotiating with the Russians and Chinese in January.
‘DRACONIAN MEASURES’ TO COME FROM EU
The sanctions resolution calls for measures against new Iranian banks abroad if a connection to the nuclear or missile programs is suspected, as well as vigilance over transactions with any Iranian bank, including the central bank.
It also expands a U.N. arms embargo against Tehran and blacklists three firms controlled by Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and 15 belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The resolution also calls for setting up a cargo inspection regime similar to one in place for North Korea.
Critics point out that many of the measures are voluntary. They also say none of the measures in the three previous sanctions resolutions passed since 2006, nor U.S. and Israeli hints of possible military action, were enough to force Iran to abandon its enrichment program.
“These are not the crippling sanctions that (U.S.) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had promised about a year ago,” said James Lindsay of the Council on Foreign Relations.
“The end result is that the high-stakes game of chicken over Iran’s nuclear program will continue,” he added.
Western diplomats and analysts argue that the European Union, United States and their allies around the world now have the legal basis to impose their own measures that will be much tougher than anything the Security Council has agreed on.
“The draconian measures will come from the EU,” Albright said.
Albright’s assessment was confirmed by EU diplomats, who said major European states plan to impose further sanctions on Iran and could agree them very soon.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Iran’s oil and gas export capability might be among the targets.
At the same time, analysts expressed concern about the dissenting votes in the council. Turkey and Brazil, angry about the West’s dismissal of a nuclear fuel swap deal with Iran that they say makes new sanctions unnecessary, voted against them.
“It’s regrettable that the council is now divided on the issue,” said Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. “Tehran’s leaders will take solace in that but will also be sorely disappointed that their diplomatic gambit with Brazil and Turkey wasn’t able to avoid a new round of sanctions.”
Albright said it was vital for Obama and his allies to reach out to Turkey and Brazil to avoid diplomatic fallout.
The effectiveness of the sanctions, Fitzpatrick said, will ultimately depend on their implementation. In the past, Russia and China, which have close trade ties with Tehran, have been lax about applying the sanctions, analysts and diplomats say.
China’s U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong, said Beijing was determined to see that the new sanctions are implemented fully.
“The sanctions aren’t crippling by any means,” Fitzpatrick said, “and are unlikely to change any minds in Tehran but they won’t pass unnoticed either. The ban on offensive arms imports will be a keen concern to the Iranian military.”
Editing by Bill Trott and Cynthia Osterman