Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Major Powers Have Deal on Sanctions for Iran
By DAVID E. SANGER and MARK LANDLER WASHINGTON — The Obama administration announced an agreement on Tuesday with other major powers, including Russia and China, to impose a fourth set of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, setting the stage for an intense tug of war with Tehran as it tries to avoid passage of the penalties by the full United Nations Security Council. The announcement came just a day after Iranian leaders announced their own tentative deal, with Turkey and Brazil, to turn over about half of Iran’s stockpile of nuclear fuel for a year, part of a frantic effort to blunt the American-led campaign for harsher sanctions. “This announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, describing the agreement as a “strong draft.” But even if the Security Council adopts the new sanctions, it is unclear whether the provisions — including a mandate to inspect Iranian ships suspected of entering international ports with nuclear-related technology or weapons — would inflict enough pain to force Iran to halt its uranium enrichment and cooperate with international inspectors. None of the previous three sets of sanctions passed by the Council during the Bush administration succeeded in their goal: forcing Iran to end its enrichment of uranium and to answer the many questions posed by international inspectors related to their suspicions about Iranian research into nuclear weapons. Some of the toughest proposals were barely even discussed as the United States sought support from China, which is a major trading partner with Iran and has been the most resistant to new sanctions. Along with the Russians, the Chinese blocked any measure that would stop the flow of oil from Iranian ports or gasoline into the country. President Obama himself had raised the possibility of such sanctions during the 2008 campaign. In the end, a deal was reached by the five permanent, veto-wielding members of the Council — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — plus Germany. They agreed on sanctions against Iranian financial institutions, including those that supported the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Members of the Guard Corps are responsible for overseeing the military aspects of the nuclear program and have assumed commanding roles in the broader Iranian economy. The newest element of the sanctions would require countries to inspect ships or planes headed into or out of Iran if there were suspicions that banned materials were aboard. But as in the case of sanctions against North Korea, there is no authorization to board ships forcibly at sea, a step officials from many countries warned could touch off a larger confrontation. Another new element bars all countries from permitting Iran to invest in nuclear enrichment plants, uranium mines and other nuclear-related technology. That appeared to be aimed at halting rumored Iranian ventures with Venezuela and Zimbabwe, or with companies in Europe. The agreement came months later than the administration had hoped, and after a hectic week of diplomacy, capped by a last-minute phone call by Mrs. Clinton to Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, to confirm whether Moscow was on board, a senior American official said. The United States believed that it was close to a deal last week, said the official, who did not want to be identified by name while discussing internal negotiations. But it could not resolve the final points with Russia over conventional, nonnuclear arms sales to Iran, and with China over its energy investments there. The American ambassador to the United Nations, Susan E. Rice, said, “We will seek a vote as soon as the conditions are right and Council members have had an opportunity to consider it.” Several officials said that moment would not come until next month, at the earliest. Even if the proposed sanctions survive without being watered down, administration officials concede that they are unlikely to alter Iran’s behavior, unless they are combined with considerable additional pressure. The previous three sets of sanctions were simply ignored by many of Iran’s trading partners. “The devil has been in the implementation,” Patrick Clawson, the deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies. The draft resolution faces resistance from Brazil and Turkey, which have seats on the Council and brokered the deal to transfer some of Iran’s nuclear fuel out of the country. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey sharply criticized the continued push for sanctions by the United States. Mr. Erdogan worked with President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil to reach the accord with Iran on Monday. Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Brazil’s ambassador to the United Nations, said, “Brazil is not engaging in any discussion about this draft resolution, because we are sure there is a new situation.” Turkey and Brazil have considerable business dealings with Iran, and are seen as eager to flex their muscles on the international stage. The ambassadors from the five permanent members of the Council, speaking with reporters at the United Nations, said that they respected the compromise that the countries had reached with Iran but that it did not address their core concern: Iran’s continuing efforts to enrich uranium. Vitaly I. Churkin, the Russian ambassador, said that the draft resolution contained “language we can live with, because it is focused adequately on nonproliferation matters.” Li Baodong, the Chinese envoy, said the resolution should signal to Iran that it needs to cooperate with the United Nations’ atomic energy agency. “The purpose of sanctions is to bring the Iranian side to the negotiating table,” he said, while praising the initiative taken by Brazil and Turkey. Iran’s announcement that it would ship what is believed to be roughly half of its nuclear fuel to Turkey for further enrichment appeared to be a bid to undercut the American efforts to bring along China and Russia. The offer resembled an accord made with the West last October that fell apart when Iran backtracked. Iran has said its nuclear program is intended to produce civilian energy, but American and European officials have pointed to work that seems unrelated to simply producing power. A senior administration official said that one of the most critical sections of the proposed sanctions was modeled on a resolution passed last year against North Korea, after its second nuclear test. That resolution authorized all nations to search cargo ships heading into or out of the country if there were suspicions that weapons or nuclear technology were aboard. In North Korea’s case, there have already been some modest successes. In one case, North Korea sent one of its ships back to port, rather than risk having it boarded and inspected.