Saturday, March 24, 2007

UN Sanctions On Iran - The Devil In The Details

The BBC has the full text of the newly-approved sanctions the UN Security Council has agreed to impose on Iran. They make interesting reading.

American rightwing hawks are going to say they aren't nearly strong enough - but they were going to say that no matter what. They want the ultimate sanction to be applied to Iran, no matter if some are saying "not just yet".

But there's a prohibition against allowing the travel of Iranian nuke scientists or anyone even remotely connected with their nuclear program. It doesn't sound like much of a punishment and it isn't - it's designed to stop those scientists going to other Middle Eastern countries to pass on their knowledge. The neocons in the US and Israel have conniptions every time they think about Egypt, Jordan or even Saudi Arabia having any kind of nuclear program, even a civilian one.

(But there's a caveat for travel for religious reasons, so maybe Saudi Arabia is eagerly awaiting a bunch of Iranian nuclear scientists on pilgrimage.)

Then there's the real bite of the sanctions - the UN:
7. Calls upon all States and international financial institutions not to enter into new commitments for grants, financial assistance, and concessional loans, to the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, except for humanitarian and developmental purposes
Which will hit Iran where it will hurt most - in the wallet. But there's no prohibition against oil exports, which would have hurt even more. Got to keep the SUV drivers at home mollified.

There's a clause designed to stop nations like Russia and China selling Iran sophisticated weapons systems, just in case the US has to attack:
Calls upon all States to exercise vigilance and restraint in the supply, sale or transfer directly or indirectly from their territories or by their nationals or using their flag vessels or aircraft of any battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles or missile systems as defined for the purpose of the United Nations Register on Conventional Arms to Iran, and in the provision to Iran of any technical assistance or training, financial assistance, investment, brokering or other services, and the transfer of financial resources or services, related to the supply, sale, transfer, manufacture or use of such items in order to prevent a destabilising accumulation of arms;
And finally there's the devil in the detail - the one clause that means sanctions aren't where it stops:
Decides that Iran shall not supply, sell or transfer directly or indirectly from its territory or by its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft any arms or related materiel, and that all States shall prohibit the procurement of such items from Iran by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in the territory of Iran;
This one's the kicker. Sure Iran makes money from arms sales but it isn't the kind of huge amounts other products such as gas or oil drag in. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense as a sanction...

...until you remember that the US maintains - on incredibly flimsy evidence - that Iran is directly supplying weapons to Iraqi groups. I predict that within a very few months, the Bush administration will be pointing to this clause and citing the same flimsy evidence as contravention of the clause. It will then ask for a UNSC resolution to use force against Iran to ensure compliance. The end result is war with a UN imprimatur.

If the UN kicks out that call because the evidence is so poor then the White House will simply announce, via it's neocon UN ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, that the US will act unilaterally against Iran to save the international community from itself. The end result is still war, without a UN approval but with at least a cover story to present to the American people as to why there is no such approval.

It will be a thin story, but a thin story is all this administration has ever needed, as they've proven time and again.

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