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UN sanctions may hurt but they won’t stop Iran

The UN Security Council’s decision to impose more sanctions on Iran will make life a little more unpleasant for thousands of Iranians but will not deter Tehran from pursuing its nuclear program, Western analysts said.

The sanctions in themselves -- an increase in the number of individuals and firms on a UN travel and asset-freeze blacklist, or calls for vigilance over Iranian banks and shipping firms -- will not do much damage. The analysts said though they might appear weak, even symbolic, they sent a message to Tehran that even staunch trading partners like Russia and China opposed Tehran’s determination to defy the Security Council and continue to enrich uranium.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry made this clear on Tuesday, calling the third sanctions resolution against Iran “a serious political signal about the need to cooperate with the UN Security Council” to dispel fears it wants nuclear weapons. Pierre Goldschmidt, former deputy director of the UN nuclear watchdog who investigated Iran’s atomic program for years, told Reuters the sanctions would not change Tehran. “I don’t think the new sanctions will improve Iran’s attitude with regard to its nuclear program or compliance with UNSC (UN Security Council) resolutions,” said Goldschmidt. But it told “Iran that the international community cannot accept Iran’s non-compliance,” he said.

Iran ignored three previous Security Council resolutions demanding that it halt its uranium enrichment program, which can produce fuel for nuclear weapons or atomic bombs. Tehran, which insists its nuclear program is peaceful, said it had no intention to comply with the latest “illegal” resolution. George Perkovich, vice president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think-tank, said Iran’s leaders were “rational” and probably deterrable though the right formula for persuading them to halt enrichment had yet to be found. Military force was not a viable option and would do more harm than good, he added.


Impact of sanction
Tehran’s UN Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee told reporters last week the sanctions had a negative impact but also made Iran more determined to press ahead with its nuclear program. Sami Alfaraj, president of the Kuwait Centre for Strategic Studies, said sanctions were hurting some 10,000 small Iranian businesses and their hundreds of thousands of employees. This, he said, could influence election results. “I’m sure it’s going to ... have an impact on the way people think about the management of foreign policy by this current administration of President (Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad.”

Some analysts say that stopping the sanctions drive would boost the position of hardliners in the United States and Israel who favor air strikes against Iran’s atomic facilities. Many Israelis see solving the issue of Iran’s nuclear program as fundamental to their existence since Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for the destruction of the Jewish state. Veteran Israeli security correspondent Yossi Melman wrote in an opinion piece in Tuesday’s edition of Israeli daily Haaretz that international sanctions were not working and Israel would soon face a difficult choice. “The time for a decision on whether to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities before it is too late is nearing, and it seems this will be a decision by the Israeli government, as it is clear that the Bush administration will not do it.”

Some analysts say, that the United States was too bogged down in Iraq to attack Iran, which could retaliate by making life difficult for the Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States had originally pushed for much tougher sanctions but to get Russia and China on board it had to settle for a call for vigilance on trade with the two banks. According to Shannon Kile, an analyst at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the difficulties in getting even watered-down sanctions through the council meant that there would be no further sanctions resolutions on Iran. He also said plans to revive and beef up a 2006 offer of incentives for Tehran were doomed since it would be rejected. (Reuters)