The Iran Sanctions

As expected, the Security Council approved on Saturday a tougher set of sanctions against Iran. The council unanimously agreed to an asset freeze and travel ban on 28 government and military officials, a ban on arm exports from Iran, and sanctions on the state owned bank, Sepah. The resolution also makes clear that if Iran complies, and suspends its uranium enrichment program, sanctions will be lifted and a previous offer of economic incentives will be made available.

Nicholas Burns, a firm international relations pragmatist in the US government, spoke to the press following the Security Council vote:

“It’s a significant international rebuke to Iran and it’s a significant tightening of international pressure on Iran,” said Nicholas Burns, undersecretary for political affairs at the State Department. If Iran does not comply, “there’s no question” that the United States will seek a third and tougher resolution, he added.


Burns said that because of a “tumultuous political environment” in Iran “we believe there is a faction inside that government that wishes to accept this offer to negotiate.”

And from the Washington Post:

“We got more than we thought we were going to get” in this resolution, said Nicholas Burns…He also said that it criminalizes Iran’s military support for Middle East extremists and exposes its political isolation. “If Iran has Qatar, a gulf Arab state, and Indonesia, a Muslim state, and South Africa, a leading member of the nonaligned movement, voting for these sanctions, Iran is in trouble internationally.”

Security Council votes have consequences. The Iranian government has long been considered a pariah-state in the West. But now, by defying the Security Council, it risks gaining an ignominious reputation in other parts of the world. The council vote also made some of Iran’s larger trading partners key stakeholders in the successful implementation of last summer’s Security Council resolution 1696, which calls for the suspension of Iran’s nuclear enrichment activities. Prior to the vote last week, Russia even suspended construction of a nuclear plant in Bushehr in southern Iran.

The previous set of sanctions, approved in December, exposed fissures inside Iran. The government now must choose between cooperating with the demands of the international community or enduring isolation. The Security Council has raised the cost of Iran going nuclear. This is the way that diplomacy is supposed to work.