Moscow’s low-pressure warning to Tehran

Other News Materials 6 February 2008 11:52 (UTC +04:00)

MOSCOW. (International commentator Pyotr Goncharov for RIA Novosti) - A new UN Security Council resolution on Iran may prove to be quite serious.

Initially, the views of the draft resolution submitted by theBig Euro Troika (negotiators with Iran - France, Germany, and Britain) were noticeably different. Moscow believed that the new resolution would not provide for any tough sanctions, whereas Washington and Paris were trying to penalize Tehran.

This divergence was prompted by the resolution's compromise character. Moscow, and probably Beijing thought that the new resolution would not envisage any punitive measures because like the previous one, it was drafted in line with an article of the UN Charter that rules out coercion.

Obviously, other members of the Six - the authors of the draft plus the United States - are of a different opinion. Most likely, the document contained hidden agendas, which Moscow did not notice at first glance.

Now, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak says that the document is sending serious signals to Tehran; one of them is on tougher sanctions, as everyone will see when the resolution is published. Kislyak explained that tougher sanctions are a routine thing - sanctions are being toughened almost automatically, that is, after the adoption of each new resolution; this is done in a "balanced manner and is tailored to the developments."

Tougher sanctions mean more Iranian names on the non grata list, and more blacklisted Iranian national and commercial banks.

How are tougher sanctions "tailored to the developments?" The situation around the Iranian nuclear program deteriorated when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power. The president and his team of young conservatives fundamentally changed Iran's position in the nuclear sphere, having given up their predecessors' cautious and balanced policy.

In August 2005, Iran resumed the operation of a conversion plant in Isfahan, and in January 2006 restored the uranium-enrichment facility in Natanza in defiance of appeals from the world community. By doing so, Iran drove the Euro Troika into a deadlock, leaving it no other choice than to transfer the UN nuclear file from the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to the UN Security Council.

In December 2006, the latter adopted the first resolution (1737) on nominal sanctions, and in March 2007, a resolution that expanded the list of these sanctions (1747). Both documents demanded that Tehran curtail all uranium-enrichment activities, and resume talks with the Euro Troika.

The adoption of the new resolution was continuously delayed because of Moscow and Beijing. During this time, Ahmadinejad's team travelled a long way in toughening its stance. As a result, international experts, including Iranian, are in agreement that the Iranian nuclear program had approached a point beyond which it would inevitably result in the development of nuclear weapons. Against this backdrop, mild sanctions from the Security Council were almost encouraging Tehran to go ahead.

What "serious signals" is Kislyak talking about? Most likely, the new resolution will also insist that Iran should stop nuclear enrichment as the main condition for resuming talks. It is not by chance that Kislyak said that Moscow urged Iran to stop all work with uranium. He recalled that a proposal to use a uranium enrichment center on Russian territory "is still on the negotiating table," and that Russia, who has already started nuclear fuel supplies to Iran, will meet its requirements for a decade to come.

Washington has a surprisingly tolerant attitude toward Russian nuclear fuel supplies to the Bushehr nuclear power plant, although Israel and many European countries qualified them as a direct threat to regional security. George W. Bush all but repeated Vladimir Putin's words to the effect that now that Russia is supplying Iran with nuclear fuel, it will not have to deal with nuclear enrichment itself.

But Washington's tolerance is deceptive. It has taken a break and given Moscow and Tehran an opportunity to put all trumps on the table. This is what they have already done. Now Tehran has very little room to maneuver and there is little chance that the Iranian nuclear program will be resolved by mild sanctions.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of Trend.