Wednesday, 18 August 2010


Iran sanctions cripple the UN

By Massoud Parsi

Al-Jazeera English

After six months of intense US and Israeli lobbying, the UN
Security Council has voted for a new round of sanctions
against Iran.

But most commentators agree that Resolution 1929 is so
watered down - as a result of Chinese and Russian efforts -
that it will have little or no impact on Iran’s nuclear
energy programme or Iranian trade and economic development.

Iran has lived with similar sanctions for more than three
decades and with none of the country’s key economic sectors
targeted by the new sanctions - and many provisions in the
new resolution voluntary rather than mandatory - there is
no reason to believe that Iran will face any serious
hardship now.

The timing of this latest round of sanctions - coming a few
days before the first anniversary of Iran’s controversial
presidential elections and a few weeks after what was
hailed by many as a landmark nuclear fuel swap deal between
Turkey, Brazil and Iran - raises many questions.

Key among these is why did the Americans reject Iran's fuel
swap offer and how could such toothless sanctions be
considered a step in the right direction?

Undermined and delegitimised

The only feasible rationale for imposing further sanctions
in the face of Iran's obvious willingness to negotiate must
be found not in any wish to reduce the threat posed by
nuclear weapons, but instead in the geopolitical interests
of a few power-hungry countries - and their allies and
client states - who possess an undemocratic veto power in
the UN.

The UN, it appears, does not desire a nuclear-free Middle

After the Iraq and Afghanistan debacles, such actions by
the UN Security Council only serve to further delegitimise
the UN and to undermine its charter.

While the first round of sanctions against Iran were
unanimously adopted, this latest round - the fourth in as
many years - was called "a mistake" by Turkey and Brazil,
who voted against the motion, while Lebanon abstained -
pointing to the clear lack of consensus within the council.

Glaring contradictions

The senseless nature of the situation was immediately
obvious as statements emerged from various quarters.

On the one hand there were the Chinese who argued for
negotiations as the best way forward both before and after
voting in favour of further sanctions.

This stance may have been intended as a clever public
relations exercise, but its inherent contradiction is

China has gained a far greater share of Iran's trade and
investment opportunities over the past decade and has
managed to further boost her opportunities by taking the
West for a "voluntary sanctions" ride that is destined to
further isolate the latter from Iran's market.

There are several emerging markets and technological
alternatives in the new post-financial crisis world
economic order.

While Iran certainly does not need greater economic
cooperation with the West, the latter's insistence on
limiting their own trade opportunities with one of the
world's largest economies - and one that owns vast amounts
of natural gas and oil - is quite baffling.

It does, however, make good sense to Chinese strategists.

Shrewd geopolitical game

Russia too has played its geopolitical game shrewdly.
Iran's huge gas reserves threaten Russia's dominance in
supplying Europe and others. Further "voluntary sanctions"
by the latter help to maintain Russia's improving position.
in depth

Furthermore, closer collaboration between Iran and the US
would reduce the Americans' losses in Iraq and Afghanistan,
and reduce Russia's influence. Russia would much rather
keep Iran and the US at each other's throats.

It is for this reason that Russia can vote for sanctions
ostensibly designed to limit Iran's nuclear capabilities,
while at the same time planning to open a new nuclear power
station in Iran in August.

Russia is also talking about helping to build new nuclear
sites in Iran, and even reserves the right to supply Iran
with the kind of weapons that would effectively defend
Iran's nuclear installations against any foreign attack.

All of these "exemptions" were included in a UN resolution
allegedly aimed at reducing Iran's nuclear capabilities.

So a geopolitical game looks set to continue with comical

'Nuclear apartheid'

With nothing offered in return for its willingness to
negotiate, Iran has no incentive to return to nuclear

With limited options left for talks with Iran, the US will
continue to limp along in the Middle East, stuck in
quagmires and spending beyond its means while anti-American
sentiments are further boosted in the region.

At the same time, the Europeans decline in economic terms
and global influence, while the Chinese and Russians
continue to rise.

Add to this a shameless display of what may be described as
"nuclear apartheid" by the nuclear-armed culprits at the
direct expense of the non-proliferation agenda.

After decades of aimless talks, the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) recently managed to put Israel's known
illegal nuclear weapons on the agenda.

But what hope can the world really have for a serious
debate when it is only Iran – which has no nuclear weapons
and which has endured more than 4,000 invasive IAEA
inspections to date – that faces sanctions?

Ahmadinejad: A willing partner

It is hard to fathom what real long-term benefits the US is
hoping to gain from its obstructionism and exceptionalism
when it comes to the nuclear debate.

Perhaps the US administration imagined that by pressing for
more sanctions just before the June 12 anniversary, it may
undermine the Iranian regime.

But the Iranian opposition's position on the nuclear issue
is no less determined. And no Iranian group can hope to
gain power by challenging the Iranian government on the
basis of foreign dictates. To imagine otherwise is to
misunderstand Iranians.

In fact, and despite the rhetoric, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the
Iranian president, has turned out to be the most willing
partner for rapprochement with the US in a long time.

He has made several gestures, starting with a
congratulatory letter to Barack Obama, the US president,
upon his election, and a daring proposal for a nuclear fuel
swap deal that was largely in line with a proposal made by
the UN six months earlier.

But Obama has responded with New Year messages to the
Iranian people and sanctions against their economy.

On no known occasion has the current - or previous - US
administration made any direct approach to the Iranian
leaders for talks. Quite the opposite: Whether it is the
nuclear issue or Middle East affairs, Iran has been
pointedly excluded from the list of invitees.

Irrelevant and biased

So, with the negotiations door firmly shut by the West,
Iran has little option but to turn its back on the UN's
nuclear apartheid policies, and to continue to build its
economy and strategic relations with the countries of the
South, while those of the North continue to isolate

To the great majority of the people of Iran and the wider
world, the UN Security Council is growing increasingly
irrelevant and biased.

The US' games have in effect crippled the UN.

Perhaps this is one of those hidden aims too, not just to
elevate the US position versus the UN, but also to ensure
that US allies never face the consequences of their
excesses, including those on the nuclear issue.

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