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Aspects and Consequences of the New U.S. and EU Sanctions against Iran

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Seyed Hussein Mousavi

Why the United States and the European Union have spread out their sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran? After the ratification of the United Nations Security Council resolution 1929 against Iran, the U.S. and the EU did immediately adopt new rounds of unilateral and joint sanctions against several Iranian officials, companies, and banks. The U.S. and the EU adopted some measures against the Islamic Republic of Iran which are not included in the United Nations Security Council resolution 1929. These measures are the ones which had previously been included in the draft of the resolution proposed by the United States and Britain but rejected by two other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, i.e. Russia and China. Russia was the first permanent member of the United Nations Security Council which reacted towards multiple measures adopted by the U.S. and the EU. Russian officials defined these measures as contrary to the United Nations Security Council resolution 1929. It seems that other permanent and non-permanent members of the Security Council, especially China, Turkey and Brazil, adopt similar stances and join the Russians in their refutation of such measures. The present article is trying to provide a perspective of the future of relationship among permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and their further cooperation, especially regarding the Iran's nuclear program.

1) It has been clarified that in their consultations with other permanent members of the Security Council, the United States and Britain had not been able to convince them to comply with their own preferred version of the resolution. At the same time, the United States and Britain could not withdraw their proposed draft from the agenda of the United Nations Security Council. Therefore, they preferred to accept some modifications proposed by Russia and China so as to obtain a minimum level of consensus among Security Council members, especially the veto-wielding powers, in order to issue the fourth UN Security Council resolution against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Russia has frequently emphasized on the fact that the draft proposed by the United States and Britain included broader sanctions against Iran and the possibility of its ratification in the United Nations Security Council was very weak. In other word, if we exclude the investigation of Iranian ships from the fourth Security Council resolution (resolution 1929), we can realize that it is one and the same with the third anti-Iranian resolution adopted by the Council. The present article is not focused on acquitting Russia and China in the ratification of the resolution 1929 against Iran; rather, we are dealing with extensive western, and especially American, pressures on these two countries in order to oblige them to accept a minimum level of new strains against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Russia has always reiterated that the new sanction regimes against Iran should not threaten the private sector of Iranian economy. Therefore, Russian officials have raised the concept of “smart sanctions” against Iran. Nevertheless, the United States and the European Union imposed further new and unilateral sanctions against Iran which were far beyond the limits of the resolution 1929. Therefore, Russia, China, and even some non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council which supported the ratification of this resolution against the Islamic Republic of Iran will probably come to this conclusion in the near future that the U.S. and the EU are leapfrogging over the UN Security Council resolutions and pursue objectives that are far beyond the suspension of Iranian uranium enrichment. As a result, we can argue that the United States and the European Union resort to the Security Council as an instrument for further development and justification of their unilateral behavior and one-sided measures against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Therefore, this issue can have harmful consequences for the relationship between these states and the U.S./EU. Elaborating on new American and European measures against Iran, a U.S. foreign policy expert has argued that Washington and its Western allies are once again taking advantage of the formula that they used against Iraq in the first half of the 1990s which finally ended in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 without the endorsement of the United Nations Security Council. Despite the fact that then IAEA chief, Hans Blix, was insisting on renewing the deadline for inspecting Iraqi military facilities, the United States and its western allies invaded Iraq under the pretext of the existence of weapons of mass destruction in this country.

2) The expansion of sanctions against Iran by the United States and the European Union just a few days after the ratification of resolution 1929 in the Security Council will further increase the gap among permanent members of this Council. Resorting to such measures by the Unites States and European Union can even undermine the implementation of the newly ratified UN Security Council resolution, because, as Russia’s reaction towards these measures indicates, Moscow’s support of the resolution 1929 is dependent on the avoidance of veto-wielding powers from further expansion of sanctions against Islamic Republic of Iran. Therefore, it can be concluded that Russia, and probably China will in the near future, be seriously doubtful towards further continuation of their collaboration with western powers over Iran's nuclear program and, specifically, the implementation of the Security Council resolution 1929. Recent statements of Russian officials suggest that Moscow is greatly displeased with unilateral measures by the United States and the European Union against the Islamic Republic of Iran. For instance, Russian officials who are engaged in Russia’s nuclear energy sector have recently referred to the completion of Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant in near future. At the same time, several Russian officials have emphasized on the possibility of resumption of negotiations with Iran in order to transfer the S-300 air-defense system to Tehran. It seems that both Russia and China show no practical obligation to comply with the full implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1929 because the U.S. tries to leapfrog the will of the international community. Of course, these gaps and differences are as extensive and narrow as the Islamic Republic of Iran is expecting; nevertheless, these gaps and differences can overshadows the meetings of the United Nations Security Council for hearing the UN Secretary General’s report on Iran’s compliance with the resolution 1929. This report is due to be released three months later. As it was pointed out earlier, we should not expect that these gaps and differences compel Russia and China to resort to their veto power in the United Nations Security Council in order to thwart the United States unilateral policies. However, these gaps and differences can persuade Russia, China, and even other UN members to demonstrate their indifference towards the full implementation of the resolution 1929. As it was previously argued, the U.S. and the EU have undermined the role of UN Security Council by resorting to these unilateral measures against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Through adopting such approaches, American and European officials will reduce the role of non-permanent members of the Council to mere instruments for providing international legitimacy for the unknown and unpredicted US demands. Such approaches can hurt the legal status of the United Nations Security Council. As a result, the UN members can reach to the disappointing conclusion that the Security Council, as the only globally legal institution, is gradually becoming an instrument for some permanent members of the Council, especially the US, the UK, and France, for further development of their own interests.

Therefore, we should wait until September in order to witness the reaction of UN members to anti-Iranian measures adopted by the U.S. and the EU. Undoubtedly, the United Nations and its Security Council will be faced with an autumn full of hot debates in this regard. Through primary evaluation of such one-sided anti-Iranian measures and their long-term objectives, many countries will be obliged to react very cautiously towards the implementation of the resolution 1929.

3) Since the adoption of United Nations Security Council resolution 1929, Iranian and foreign observers have raised numerous questions about Russian and Chinese policies towards the Islamic Republic of Iran. In order to find out their answers, these observers have made different arguments. For instance, they argue that volume of trade between China and the United States is so significant that Beijing will be quite cautious not to endanger such a voluminous trade relationship with Washington. Iranian and foreign observers also refer to U.S.-Russian agreements for reducing their arsenal of atomic ballistic missiles (START 2 Agreement) as one of the main issues that compel Russians to act cautiously in their dealings with the United States. In the negotiations about the nuclear program with the so-called 5+1, Iran was more or less hopeful that Russia and China would prevent the ratification of any harsh anti-Iranian resolution in the United Nations Security Council. However, Russian foreign minister’s premature remarks concerning Moscow’s support of the new UN Security Council resolution against Iran shocked various Iranian political circles seriously. This shock was so enormous that President Ahmadinejad addressed Russian leaders in his famous speech in Kerman and, as a result, the relatively cold Siberian wind blew in the atmosphere of Russia-Iran relations.

However, it seems that one important point has not been seriously studied and scrutinized. Despite the fact that both Russia and China have greater interests in their relations with the United States, we should not forget that one important issue is hidden behind Beijing & Moscow’s policies towards Iran. However, before dealing with this important issue, we should be focused on the relationship between China and North Korea and the stability of this relationship during past decades. The China-North Korea relationship has so far prevented harsher international pressures against Pyongyang. This state of affairs is the outcome of China’s policies towards this communist North Korea. In other words, although North Korea has rejected the rules of the game in an international arena dominated by Americans, Pyongyang is still one of the strategic and ideological allies of China in the Korean Peninsula. North Korean officials have, in fact, substituted international equations with the Chinese equation. As a result, they have increased their country’s security index.

Considering Iran's nuclear program, it seems that both Russia and China have concluded that Tehran should act according to the rules of international game and respect these rules. Albeit both Russia and China tried to water down the tone of the resolution 1929, the Islamic Republic of Iran should make a comprehensive assessment of Moscow and Beijing’s support of this resolution and review its strategic interests in international arena. Iran requires supporters in its international relations, if not allies. In its dealing with a delicate issue such as the nuclear program, the Islamic Republic of Iran should observe developments based on rules of the game in equilibriums that are prevalent in an international scale. It seems that both Russia and China have, during recent months, concluded that Iran intends not to follow the known rules of the game. If Iran’s efforts for including Brazil and Turkey, as two new actors, into the negotiation process of nuclear fuel swap had been successful, the monopoly of few traditional major powers, such as the United States, European Union, and, to some extent, Russia and China, over global affairs would have been terminated. In that case, new regionally respectable forces, such as Turkey, would have been able to exert their influence in global affairs and herald the tumbling down of American and European power.

Political observers have ignored another important issue: the United States, Russia and even China were apparently pleased with the presence of Turkey and Brazil in the process of negotiations over Iran's nuclear program; nevertheless, all of them were almost equally concerned with the emergence of new forces in regional and international arena. By playing vital roles in a critical issue like the Iranian nuclear dossier, these newly emerged forces can overshadow the role of other concerned partners in such an important subject. This phenomenon can, in the long run, affect the sphere of influence of major powers and, at the same time, allows the newly-emerged forces to adopt more appropriate policies in order to solve regional and international issues. It is quite clear that major powers are not so much pleased with such a phenomenon. For instance, Turkey’s mediation in the Arab-Israeli conflict is not welcomed by Israel. Israeli leaders are, in fact, worried of such mediation more than any other regional leader. Since several decades ago, Israel has created a severe polarization in the region under the context of “Arab-Jewish” animosity and their historical confrontations with each other. Israelis have so far prevented the introduction of new issues, especially ethical issues, into this equation.

Iran will be faced with a sensitive situation in the international arena during coming months. Due to his familiarity with the scale of these sanctions and his knowledge of Iran’s past experiences in dealing with similar embargos, the author of the present article is doubtful about the effect of such sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran. However, we should never forget that the international arena is like a chessboard. If we are not able to omit the pawns of our opponent one after another, we should be able to act as an intelligent and smart chess player and preserve our own pieces in order to take advantage of them at an appropriate time. Considering the 30- year history of the Islamic Revolution and the unilateral sanctions of the U.S. and western powers against Iran, we can realize that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been transformed into a major power in the region. At the same time, sanctions have encouraged Iranians to multiply their efforts for getting dependent on their own potentials in contemporary era. Nevertheless, we should never forget that all these potentials should be utilized for increasing our national security in international arena.

*Seyed Hussein Mousavi is the President of the Center for Scientific Research and Middle East Strategic Studies (MERC)

Source: Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies (MERC)
http://en.merc.ir/Home.aspx

More By Seyed Hussein Mousavi:

*Tranquility Will Reign Iran-Arabs Relations: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Tranquility_Will_Reign_Iran_Arabs_Relations.htm

*Future Outlook of Iran Sanctions: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Future_Outlook_of_Iran_Sanctions.htm

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