Saturday, December 23, 2006

The U.N. votes to sanction Iran

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Following a similar effort a couple of months ago to try to curb the development of North Korea's nuclear program, the United Nations has finally turned its full attention to Iran:

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Saturday to impose economic sanctions on Iran for refusing to end a uranium enrichment program that the United States says is aimed at building nuclear weapons.

Iran immediately rejected the resolution.

The result of two months of negotiation, the resolution orders all countries to stop supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs. It also would freeze Iranian assets of key companies and individuals related to those programs.

If Iran refuses to comply, the resolution warns Iran that the council will adopt further nonmilitary sanctions.

And then what? Although I would likely oppose a U.S. strike on Iran -- and have argued against it here, here, and here -- I'm not sure how successful such "nonmilitary sanctions" would be in the long run, particularly with Russia's unwillingness to support U.S.-led efforts at the U.N.

Which isn't an argument for war as the only remaining option, just skepticism. Then again, if Bush hadn't squandered American credibility and leadership, perhaps a diplomatic solution would be more likely than it seems to be now.

This is a good step by the U.N., but it must be followed with ever more vigorous diplomacy and, ultimately, compromise. What does Iran want? What would it take for Iran to halt its nuclear program? Those are the questions that ought to form the basis of substantive talks with Tehran. Such talks might go nowhere, and there might be no suitable compromise, but the effort should at least be made.

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