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.
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The Kirk amendment, which mirrors legislation passed unanimously by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, would freeze US-based assets of foreign financial institutions that have dealings with Iran’s central bank.Skip to next paragraph
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It seems unlikely that Russia and China, which have recently reiterated their opposition to additional sanctions on Iran, would go along with action against Iran’s central bank. But Katzman says it would be wrong to assume that the two UN Security Council powers will continue to insist that no additional action be taken.
For one thing, he says both powers are invested in the Security Council as an internationally powerful institution, and neither of them “wants to see the institution mocked.”
Second, he says both Russia and China have “red lines” they don’t want crossed, but that further action that respects those limitations is possible.
For both Russia and China, sanctions should be limited to targeting Iran’s nuclear program and should not hurt the broad Iranian population, Katzman says.
“The second red line is they don’t want to do anything that could be interpreted as license for military action.” Referring to Security Council action earlier this year on Libya that NATO interpreted as an open door to intervention, he adds: “They feel they’ve been burned on this in the recent past.”
Some in the US are moving forward on proposals that suggest a desire for action against Iran to be as multilateral as possible. For example, Senator Kirk is including in his amendment a six-month exemption on oil transactions in an effort of ease concerns of US allies – and of the international oil market.
The Obama administration maintains it is still pursuing a two-channel approach to Iran’s nuclear program: dialogue on one hand and, on the other, tightening the screws to convince Tehran that the international community is serious about preventing it from developing a bomb.
Most US-Iran experts say an election year, especially one with Republican candidates dismissing the prospects of diplomacy, is unlikely to produce any US-Iran diplomatic breakthroughs.
Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council in Washington, says election politics means Mr. Obama will face intense pressure to be hawkish on Iran. But Obama's 2009 overtures to Iran only scratched the surface, says Mr. Parsi, author of “A Single Roll of the Dice,” a book on Obama’s stab at diplomacy with Iran.
Many nuclear experts insist that military action against Iran would likely reinforce Tehran’s determination to become a nuclear power. Parsi says tough diplomacy remains the only option for the US to achieve its goals concerning Iran – but he also doubts that an election year will provide the space for that diplomacy to take place.
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