Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sanctioning Iran, an Obama victory

The NYT:

The United Nations Security Council leveled its fourth round of sanctions against Iran's nuclear program on Wednesday, but the measures did little to overcome widespread doubts that they -- or even the additional steps pledged by American and European officials -- would accomplish the Council's longstanding goal: halting Iran's production of nuclear fuel.

The new resolution, hailed by President Obama as delivering "the toughest sanctions ever faced by the Iranian government," took months to negotiate and major concessions by American officials, but still failed to carry the symbolic weight of a unanimous decision. Twelve of the 15 nations on the Council voted for the measure, while Turkey and Brazil voted against it and Lebanon abstained.

The United States and Europe acknowledged before negotiations started that they would not get the tough sanctions they were hoping for, promising to enact harsher measures on their own once they had the imprimatur of the United Nations. Congress is expected to pass a package of unilateral sanctions against Iran, and European leaders will begin discussing possible measures at a summit meeting next week. 

Sure, the sanctions could have been tougher (and I support targeted sanctions meant to hurt the government and military, though I prefer a mutifaceted approach that combines sanctions with respect for Iran's national pride and support for its more liberal, pro-reform elements), and it's too bad the vote wasn't unanimous, but I think this is a significant victory for Obama, not least to have Russia and China on board. On this, I agree with Yglesias:

[I]t seems to me that the UN Security Council's vote to impose sanctions on Iran counts as a vindication of Barack Obama's view that taking a more conciliatory approach to the world will help get more cooperation from other world powers on American priorities. 

Obama reached out and tried to engage in serious discussions with Iran, but he was firmly rebuffed. Much to his credit, he is now in a position to lead the international community in addressing Iran's nuclear program, as well as Iran's blatant disregard for the authority of the United Nations, not through reckless military action, which the warmongering neocons desire (and which would backfire terribly), but through tough but sensible measures designed to put pressure on Iran's rogue regime.

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