By Salvator Cusimano
(UNITED NATIONS) -- The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1929 on Wednesday morning, imposing a new round of sanctions against Iran. The United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China, along with Germany - known as the Permanent Five plus One - negotiated for months to reach the final draft resolution put forth for a vote at the Council.
The resolution addresses concerns over Iran's nuclear program and is the fourth round of sanctions imposed against Iran. In 2006, the Security Council ordered Iran to stop enriching uranium and justified subsequent sanctions on the basis that Tehran had not complied. Tehran has consistently maintained that its nuclear program is peaceful, and as such places the country in compliance with its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The new sanctions aim to curtail Iranian military capabilities by restricting missile investment and testing, enforcing a conventional arms ban, suggesting a cargo inspections regime, and targeting sanctions at new individuals and entities. These targeted sanctions impose an asset freeze on 40 entities and one individual, and a travel ban on 36 new individuals allegedly involved in Iran's nuclear program.
Speaking after the affirmative vote, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice hailed the resolution as being "as tough as they are smart and precise." U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton previously indicated that the sanctions would be the toughest yet. However, Resolution 1929 reflects compromises made with China and Russia on the initial draft resolution put forth by the United States and the United Kingdom and is apparently weaker than officials had privately hoped.
Furthermore, analysts have noted that these sanctions are weaker than those imposed during U.S. President Bush's term, even in spite of his administration's notorious disregard for multilateralism. Each previous Iran sanctions resolution passed unanimously, but Resolution 1929 only passed with a vote of 12 in favour, 2 opposed, and 1 abstention. This vote reflects division within the Council over sanctions and may weaken enforcement efforts, as the dissenters could conceivably lag on compliance with the required measures.
The Council Chamber bustled as Security Council delegates and others informally discussed matters on the floor before the delayed start of the session. As the Security Council President Claude Heller of Mexico called the Council to order the packed room fell silent. With the formal adoption of the agenda, Heller added Brazil and Turkey to the speaking list and asked the Council members if they would allow the delegations from Iran and Germany to observe the session; they did.
Heller then called the delegate from Brazil to speak first.
Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Brazilian Ambassador to the UN, began her speech in dramatic fashion by announcing that Brazil would vote against the draft resolution, ending speculation over whether Iran's diplomatic interlocutor would indeed oppose sanctions.
Brazil regretted that the P5 and Germany -Viotti coldly referred to Germany only as a state without membership on the Security Council - had negotiated behind closed doors and failed to give the nuclear deal jointly reached with Turkey and Iran the time and recognition it needed to succeed. Noting that sanctions would delay new progress on a peaceful, negotiated solution, Brazil decided to vote against the resolution on the grounds that it was just one more event in a spiral of threats and isolation.
Turkey revealed that the P5+1 had sent their formal recommendations just hours before the Council was to vote on the draft resolution. Although frustrated with the circumstances, Turkey seemed to be less unequivocal than Brazil in its opposition to new sanctions, calling upon Iran to show absolute transparency and full cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, cognizant of the concerns of the international community.
In the end, however, Turkey revealed that it, too, would vote against the draft resolution.
As Heller moved the Council to vote, murmurs arose in the Chamber as the delegates raised their hands in favour, then in opposition, and finally in abstention. Delegates strained to see whether any further opposition would be voiced in the form of an opposing or abstaining vote. As expected, Lebanon abstained.
The enormous weight of months of build-up to this moment was lifted in a matter of otherwise unremarkable seconds.
New sanctions had been imposed on Iran.
After the vote, the delegates had the opportunity to provide their rationale. Ambassador Rice spoke first, followed by Uganda and the rest of the P5. Each delegate voiced similar concerns over Iran's nuclear program, citing what they called defiance, deception, and delays from Tehran. The Chinese delegate's remarks stood out, as China placed special emphasis on allowing international trade and investments to continue without disrupting Iran's economy.
Only Lebanon voiced dissent in its remarks. Speaking Arabic, the Lebanese delegate noted his government's "position of principle" against the "selective" application of international rules. In particular, Lebanon denounced the double-standard applied against Iran, naming Israel as a state that should submit itself to the NPT and IAEA.
After the last delegate had spoken, Heller invited Iran to take the floor.
The Echoes of History
Heller invited the Iranian delegate, Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee, to take an empty seat at the Council table. Comparing the packed Council chamber to the legions of fans watching a soccer match between the U.S. and Iran in the 1998 World Cup, Khazaee noted that this was not the only front on which the present proceedings paralleled history. And then, his passionate speech began.
At the outset, he quoted a sage who once said that history does not repeat itself, but that men often repeat the same mistakes. Khazaee said that Resolution 1929 was based on a biased and unjust international system based on the hegemony of the most powerful. This trend, he noted, echoes 1951, when the same key themes were prevalent: energy, independence and big-power intervention.
The delegate was referring to the nationalization of Iran's oil industry in 1951, an issue the U.K. brought before the Security Council on the false premise of international peace and security (See GPF's analysis of historical parallels in the Iran sanctions debate). If we replace "oil nationalization" with "nuclear program", Khazaee exclaimed, we would have the exact same unjust, hegemonic situation as the one in 1951, not to mention the instances in which the politically-motivated Security Council neglected to protect Iran from Iraq's WMD in the 1980s. Wielding the swords of "security and freedom," the U.K. and the US have abused the power of the Security Council to ensure that nothing would interfere with the "interests of the capitalist world." At stake, he concluded, was the credibility of the Security Council which at the present enforces nothing more than "rampant double standards."
Iran, Khazaee emphasized, would not submit to the newly-minted resolution. On that note, the meeting was adjourned.