Washington Post – Editorial: The passage by the U.N. Security Council of a new sanctions resolution against Iran Wednesday was, first and foremost, a diplomatic achievement for the Obama administration.
The Washington Post
Thursday, June 10, 2010
THE PASSAGE by the U.N. Security Council of a new sanctions resolution against Iran Wednesday was, first and foremost, a diplomatic achievement for the Obama administration. The president and his aides managed to overcome initially stiff resistance from Russia and China to additional sanctions, and they deftly sidestepped a last-minute effort by Iran to derail the resolution through a side deal with Brazil and Turkey. Though the breakthrough was far from unique — the Bush administration managed to win Security Council approval of five resolutions on Iran, including three with sanctions — the administration nevertheless demonstrated effectiveness in building a coalition to increase the pressure on Tehran.
The question is whether the pressure will be strong enough to cause the regime to rethink its pursuit of nuclear weapons — in other words, whether the administration’s victory will be more than diplomatic. On that score there is reason for doubt. Though President Obama rightly says that the new sanctions are the toughest ever approved against Iran, they fall far short of the standard — “crippling” — that he originally set. Forty Iranian companies are targeted, which is more than double the existing number, but none are in the energy sector. A Russian-built nuclear plant will go forward, as will massive new investments by China in oil fields and refineries. Sales of heavy weapons to Iran are banned — but not the advanced air defense missile system that Russia has already pledged to deliver.
The administration hopes that broad and sometimes vague language in the resolution about energy, insurance and financial transactions will prompt the European Union and other friendly governments to adopt more stringent measures. But will that be enough to force Iran to accept the freeze on uranium enrichment it has resisted for four years, or even to agree to serious negotiations? “We know that the Iranian government will not change its behavior overnight,” Mr. Obama said Wednesday at the White House. Meanwhile, its steady progress toward building a weapon is likely to continue.
The regime of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has flatly rejected Mr. Obama’s offers of “engagement”; most likely it will shrug off these sanctions as well. Yet the administration has been slow to expand on the two-pronged strategy of negotiations and multilateral economic pressure that it adopted when it took office.
Encouragingly, Mr. Obama spoke of the anniversary this Saturday of last year’s fraudulent presidential election and of how the regime “brutally suppressed dissent and murdered the innocent” in its aftermath. Though it has been forced off the streets, the Green movement probably has a better chance of forcing meaningful change in Iran than the sanctions approved Wednesday. The Obama administration would do well to devote as much attention to a strategy for supporting the opposition as it has to collecting votes at the United Nations.