Monday, March 03, 2008

The Rapier Replaces the Saber

Back in October, Senator Chuck Hagel made public his concerns that our hyper-bellicose position vis-a-vis Iran was causing some partners at the UN to hesitate with respect to increasing pressure on Iran (discussed here). According to Hagel, the leaders of some of the nations needed to implement the hoped-for sanctions regime were concerned about providing the US with a pretext, or UN-based justification, for starting yet another war in the region. These ambivalent countries did not want to increase the volume at a time of maximum tension.

Then, with the release of the now famous NIE (which poured cold water on claims that Iran had an active nuclear weapons program), folks like Kevin Drum wondered whether the path had been cleared for tougher sanctions on Iran - given that nervous foreign leaders would feel freer to act, unchained by an NIE that undercut the argument for military action.

Some ridiculed this notion, arguing that sanctions would be harder to pass given the NIE-created climate of passivity with respect to Iran's nuclear activity. Whether or not the NIE worked to faciliate another round of sanctions, the UN did in fact just act to impose harsh sanctions against Iran - with remarkable consensus:

The U.N. Security Council approved a third round of sanctions against Iran on Monday with near unanimous support, sending a strong signal to Tehran that its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment is unacceptable and becoming increasingly costly.

For the first time, the resolution bans trade with Iran in goods which have both civilian and military uses and authorizes inspections of shipments to and from Iran by sea and air that are suspected of carrying banned items.

The vote was 14-0; Indonesia abstained. [...]

The resolution introduces financial monitoring on two banks with suspected links to proliferation activities, Bank Melli and Bank Saderat. It calls on all countries “to exercise vigilance” in entering into new trade commitments with Iran.

The resolution also orders countries to freeze the assets of 12 additional companies and 13 individuals with links to Iran’s nuclear or ballistic missile programs — and require countries to report the travels of those Iranians. It bans travel by five individuals linked to Iran’s nuclear effort.

Most likely, the release of the most recent IAEA findings that Iran has witheld key information on various aspects of its weapons-related nuclear program on the eve of this sanctions vote was key in swaying some fence-sitters. But don't tell Michael Rubin or Danielle Pletka.

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