New U.N. sanctions on Iran open doors for Congress but disappoint some

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The U.N. Security Council passed a new round of sanctions against Iran today with the approval of twelve of its fifteen member states. The move came after last month’s failed proposal by Iran, Brazil, and Turkey that would have shipped some Iranian uranium abroad but would not have halted Iranian enrichment entirely. Brazil and Turkey voted against today’s resolution.

Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin writes that today’s move opens the door for Congress to make progress on its own harsher sanctions:

Now that the U.N. Security Council has passed its new sanctions resolution against Iran, the path is clear for Congress to move forward with its own, tougher set of sanctions.

Lead sponsors Sen. Chris Dodd, D-CT, and Rep. Howard Berman, D-CA, had agreed to give the administration more time to complete the U.N. track before reconciling the Senate and House versions of Iran sanctions legislation. After an unusually public first session of the conference committee, work has been quietly proceeding at the staff level and is finishing up now.

But the media has been hesitant to call today’s events an unqualified diplomatic success. The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler offers critical analysis of the new sanctions:

The resolution was also far weaker than the administration originally had hoped for, in part because U.S. officials had to pay a high price to win Russian and Chinese cooperation. U.S. sanctions were ended against Russian firms that had been linked to Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, and China’s economic interests in Iran were walled off from the sanctions. After weeks of talks, the list of Iranian entities and individuals named in an international blacklist grew modestly.


The administration might have won the same result — or even better — if it had moved for new sanctions last year. Brazil and Lebanon are new members on the council this year. Brazil replaced Costa Rica, which is very amenable to American persuasion. Lebanon replaced Libya, which had actually supported a sanctions resolution on Iran in 2008. Lebanon’s government includes members of Hezbollah, which is closely linked to Iran, and might have been expected to also vote “no,” though it may have been swayed by a phone call from Clinton to Lebanese president Michel Suleiman on Wednesday morning.

But the strongest criticism comes, predictably enough, out of Tehran. Hours before the passage of the new sanctions, the Tehran Times caught Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s pre-emptive reaction to the move:

“The structure of the Security Council is discriminatory and unjust, such that the Security Council is the most undemocratic international body,” Ahmadinejad told reporters on the sidelines of a security summit in Istanbul.

“The fact that a few countries have a veto right means that they dominate the entire world,” he added.