UK, EU announce Iran sanctions

Has Europe given up on the UN? Both the UK and EU today announced new sanctions on Iran after their outright refusal of a new incentive package offered by Europe to stop Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program. The mullahcracy apparently didn’t want to talk about it this time, despite the BBC’s odd analysis last week, and Europe apparently doesn’t want to wait for the UN Security Council to act, either:

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Monday announced new sanctions against Iran and a small increase in troops for Afghanistan, handing President Bush a symbolic boost on the last day of his weeklong farewell trip to Europe.

Brown, appearing with Bush at a 10 Downing Street news conference, said Britain and the European Union would act later Monday to freeze the assets of Iran’s largest bank, Bank Melli, in response to Tehran’s refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment program.

Bush has made Iran’s uranium enrichment program a focus of his European swing, and has been encouraging European nations to further pressure the Islamic Republic to curtail its nuclear activities and allow more extensive international inspections. Iran says the program is peaceful, but there is concern that the enriched uranium could also be diverted to nuclear weapons.

The US had already isolated Melli last year after detailing payments made to terrorist groups over a four-year period. The US also cut off another Iranian bank, Saderat, from the system. The EU/UK move to add themselves to the sanctions helps force other banks around the world into ending relations with the Iranians, as any bank that does business with Melli cannot do business with Western banks at all. Neither Melli nor Saderat will gain access to the international system any longer, but that business will simply shift to another Iranian bank instead.

The move indicates that the Europeans have foregone the UN route for anything other than a pro forma route. Russia and China have blocked the imposition of significant sanctions at the UNSC for years, allowing Iran to gain momentum for its uranium-enrichment efforts. Now that new data shows Iran probably received the Pakistani designs for nuclear warheads, the enrichment cycle is all that keeps the mullahcracy from having nukes on the Shahab-3 and -4, with range into eastern Europe. Europe can’t afford to wait for Russia and China to act responsibly.

Bush and Brown both understand this. Bush will complete his final European tour today in Northern Ireland, having won some significant victories on Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran, including these sanctions and a realization that the UN has proven itself useless in the present crisis.