Thursday, March 4, 2010

Iran sanctions update

So you know all these stories about Iran sanctions? A few things that should be cleared up.

1. Where are we now? It has been reported that the US circulated a draft in New York to the six powers who negotiate on Iran. Actually, the text is still being negotiated in capitals and is not a "draft" at all but rather elements of what the US would like to be in one. We're a long way from new Iran sanctions.

2. Will Russia and China support sanctions? Russia has been much more open about sanctions than China, though both are reluctant. But yes, eventually, diplomats tell me they will both probably sign on to some sort of sanctions resolution. The Chinese even reaffirmed today in the UN Security Council that they favor the "dual-track approach" of both diplomacy and pressure, and one senior UN diplomat told reporters that the Chinese resistance is a "moving target." But Russia and China will see to it that the final resolution will be a lot weaker than what has been proposed... and certainly nothing to convince the Islamic Republic to play ball without a great deal more diplomacy.

3. What about the rest of the Council? even if Russia and China sign on, this will not be a unanimous resolution like some of the previous ones. For starters, there is no way in hell Lebanon will vote in favor, given Iran's ties to Hezbollah. An abstention is almost inevitable from the Lebanese. Not only that, but yes votes cannot be assured out of Turkey, which values its role as regional peacemaker, and Brazil, which has its own reasons. If China signs on, most of the Council's nonpermanent members will likely follow, but the US, UK and France will have to work hard to get the support of these and other nonperms. For starters, they'll have to not piss off the Turks.

4. When will it get passed? Not in May. Lebanon happens to be Council's rotating president that month. Also, the NPT Review Conference will take place in New York that month and it would be "unfortunate," in the words of one UN diplomat, if the Iran resolution overlapped. Ideally, it will be done in April, when Japan is the President. If not, maybe June. But not May.

That's what the Ambassador At Large knows today.

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