The latest wrist-slap passed the Security Council this morning on a 12-2 vote, with Brazil and our dear friends in Turkey voting no in a snit over the fact that their proposed nuclear compromise with Iran — a charade that would have done nothing to stop them from building a bomb — was rejected. (Lebanon abstained.) The sanctions that passed won’t do much to stop them either, but they do provide some political cover for Congress and European governments to impose their own tougher unilateral sanctions on top of the UN’s version. And the fact that an avowed multilateralist like The One is game for something like that goes a long way towards suggesting just how weak the Security Council package is. How weak, you say? Via DrewM, Foreign Policy takes a dim view:
The new sanctions will only require countries to block IRGC [Revolutionary Guard] or IRISL [Iranian shipping] assets if these entities are proven to be engaged in activities that are “proliferation sensitive.” In other words, if a country does not catch them red-handed while shipping centrifuges to Iran, it does not have to act.
The same qualification applies to the financial-services sanctions, which include a prohibition on opening new banks, branches of Iranian banks, and correspondent relationships. The sanctions only apply if there are grounds to believe a specific financial transaction relates to proliferation-sensitive activities. The Central Bank of Iran is mentioned only in passing, and the resolution only “encourages” countries to exercise vigilance over its transactions…
The voluntary nature of many of these sanctions guarantees that states will implement them in widely varying ways. The United States will likely use the resolution to expand its array of unilateral sanctions and enforce sanctions on Iranian financial transactions and shipping even more vigorously. EU member states will also strengthen their measures, but will not independently impose sanctions on new targets. Although they will be more aggressive in interdicting shipments, we are not likely to see Britain or France prohibiting the Iranian business of European oil companies such as Total and Shell. Russia and China, on the other hand, will probably parse the resolution’s language to its barest essentials, doing the minimum necessary to meet its requirements. This will allow Russian energy giant Gazprom and the China National Petroleum Corp. to continue their Iran projects as usual.
Apparently the new package doesn’t forbid Russia from selling surface-to-air missiles to Iran to counter a U.S. or Israeli air raid, and according to WaPo, current sanctions banning Russian companies from dealing with Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs were actually relaxed this time in order to help purchase Moscow’s vote. Apart from having to keep Russia and China happy, the U.S. et al. also had to worry about hitting the Iranian economy so broadly that the “Green Revolution” would sour on the west and turn down the heat on the regime. That’s why the measures are aimed exclusively at their military, nuclear infrastructure, and shipping industry (which has done a dandy job of evading previous sanctions). Why, at this late hour, western powers aren’t willing to go for broke and hit Iran with comprehensive economic sanctions in hopes that Iranians will blame the regime for their suffering instead of the west, I don’t know. Khamenei already has nuclear fuel for two bombs. What’s left to lose?
As for the politics, think of this as the foreign-policy equivalent of the oil spill. It’s not Obama’s fault and there’s not much he can do to stop it, but the perception of paralysis sure does blow a hole in that invincible Hopenchange image circa 2008, doesn’t it? Not only can’t Superman plug the leak, he can’t get foreign powers who were supposedly alienated by the evil that is George W. Bush to sit down with him and be reasonable. Which is to say, nations tend to follow their national interests, even when it comes to buddying up to a regime as cretinous as Tehran’s:
[E]ven as the U.N. Security Council prepares to impose its fourth round of sanctions on Iran with a vote slated for Wednesday, Tehran is demonstrating remarkable resilience, insulating some of its most crucial industries from U.S.-backed financial restrictions and building a formidable diplomatic network that should help it withstand some of the pressure from the West. Iranian leaders are meeting politicians in world capitals from Tokyo to Brussels. They are also signing game-changing energy deals, increasing their economic self-sufficiency and even gaining seats on international bodies…
[I]t is clear that Iran’s grievances with the United States have resonated with a broader audience, particularly among a group of rising economic powers, including Brazil, Turkey and India, that have emerged from the world recession with greater economic might and that are demanding more influence on the world stage. They see the Security Council as reflecting the power structure of a bygone era.
A depressing fact: Today’s Security Council vote was the first time in four rounds of sanctions against Iran that any member voted no. The Bushitler managed to score unanimity on each of the previous three. That’s not to say he was more effective than The One, just that as national interests change over time, there’s only so much that a presidential charm offensive can do to resist them. A tough lesson for our American Zeus.