Deal Struck For Iran Sanctions, U.S. Officals Say

iran-nuclear-weapons-graphicThe New York Times is reporting that there’s been a deal reached among the major powers  for a new set of sanctions on Iran:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration announced Tuesday morning that it had struck a deal with other major powers, including Russia and China, to impose new sanctions on Iran, a sharp repudiation of the deal Tehran had offered just a day before to ship its nuclear fuel out of the country.

“We have reached agreement on a strong draft with the cooperation of both Russia and China,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, without giving any details of the pact. “We plan to circulate that draft resolution to the entire Security Council today. And let me say, Mr. Chairman, I think this announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide.”

The agreement was reached by the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — the five permanent, veto-wielding members of the Security Council — plus Germany. Russia and China have been the most resistant to the American-led efforts to impose new sanctions on Iran.

If the council adopts the resolution, it will represent the fourth round of sanctions intended to induce Iran to cease enriching uranium, comply with all demands from the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect suspect locations, turn over documents related to suspected weapons research, and allow interviews of Iranian scientists. The previous three rounds failed to force Iran to comply.

So what, you might ask, is in this round of sanctions that makes anyone think they will have more of an impact on Ahmedinejad and the mullahs than the last three ? Well, not much:

As the negotiations on the draft resolution were in their final hours on Monday evening, a senior administration official said that one of the most critical sections of the proposed sanctions were 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 for suspected weapons, nuclear technology or other cargo prohibited by previous United Nations resolutions.

In North Korea’s case, there have already been some modest successes as a result of the resolution, and in one case North Korea turned around one of its ships, and sent it back to port, rather than risk having it boarded and inspected. But North Korea has relatively little trade with the outside world; Iran, because of its oil shipments, has a huge volume of trade. It is unclear how vigorously this provision, if adopted, would be enforced.

Other elements of the sanctions resolution are aimed at Iranian financial institutions, including those that support the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

There are two problems with this new sanctions regime right off the bat.

First, vigorous enforcement would clearly require stopping a lot of ships coming in and out of the Persian Gulf and, specifically the Strait of Hormuz. Leaving aside the logistics of such an operation, the disruption to shipping alone would seem to be something that few of the “major powers” would really be willing to withstand for a sustained period of time.

Second, it’s not at all clear that Iran really needs all that much more help from the outside to complete it’s nuclear program, and if it does, there are plenty of routes into the Islamic Republic that would bypass any effort to restrict shipping.

If these sanctions are intended to prevent Iran from acquiring crucial technology, it’s likely to be too late for that. If they’re meant to persuade the Iranians to come to the table, they don’t seem to be anywhere near strong enough. All of which brings up the question of whether it’s even possible at this point to stop the Iranians from developing a nuclear weapon if that’s what they’re intent on doing.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, National Security, Science & Technology, United Nations, World Politics, , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Ugh says:

    How about we give up the whole sanctions thing, normalize relations and open trade? If they get a bomb, they’ll be too busy watching dubbed episodes of Lost to use it.

    Seriously, if we can have normalized relations with the Saudis, who if anything run a more repressive regime than Iran, or Vietnam, who we fought a with that killed more than 10 times as many American soldiers as the war in Iraq has, why not with Iran?