Punish Iran for its nuclear secrecy? How sanctions could work.
The UN's nuclear watchdog is set to rebuke Iran over its nuclear program. No sanctions are planned, but the US will keep pushing, and some experts say diplomacy could still work.
The strongly worded critique of Tehran is expected Friday at the close of a meeting of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency. It will carry the support of both China and Russia, and will thus satisfy one American objective in dealing with Iran: that the international community stand united in pressuring Iran to come clean on the aims of its nuclear activities.
What the anticipated resolution holds in terms of strong rhetoric, however, it lacks in teeth. The draft text, divulged by diplomats participating in the meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors, calls on Tehran to comply with its obligations as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and to agree to negotiations on its nuclear program.
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But the text does not call for new international sanctions on Iran, nor does it set any deadline for Tehran to agree to negotiations or to open up on its nuclear program.
The result is that US and other Western powers will likely press forward on further actions, some experts say.
“We can expect the US and its allies on this issue to use this IAEA statement to seek some type of additional measures on Iran,” says Kenneth Katzman, a Persian Gulf and nuclear issues expert at the Congressional Research Service in Washington.
He rejects the notion that Russia, China, and other members of the IAEA’s 35-member Board of Governors will expect pressure on Iran to remain limited to the agency’s new statement. “They know what their vote means, they know the US and its allies are going to demand some sort of meaningful response,” Mr. Katzman adds.
The IAEA statement follows a report issued by the agency last week, which laid out evidence that Iran continues to assemble the building blocks for developing and delivering a nuclear weapon. That report led to heightened speculation that Israel, unwilling to wait on the international community, is moving ahead with planning for a military strike against Iran’s nuclear installations.
But some Iran experts say there are still untried options short of military action that could work to dissuade Iran from its nuclear ambitions. “There’s still some ground to plow out there,” says Katzman.
Among the possible measures: sanctions on Iran’s central bank, additional measures against Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, and travel bans on more Iranian officials.
In the US Senate, 92 senators have already called on President Obama to impose sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran. On Thursday, Sen. Mark Kirk (R) of Illinois filed an amendment targeting Iran’s central bank to a defense authorization bill.