Iran nuclear sanctions: Ahmadinejad says they won't bite
The US, at the urging of partners, has weakened proposed Iran nuclear sanctions at the urging of allies. A defiant President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said no country could stop 'the fast speeding train of Iranian progress.'
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed the impact of any new nuclear sanctions on Thursday as the United States weakened proposed measures against the Islamic Republic in a bid to win broader support on the UN Security Council.Skip to next paragraph
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“Let me tell you, the era when they could hurt the Iranian nation is over,” the archconservative Mr. Ahmadinejad said in a speech broadcast on national TV.
“The Iranian nation is at such a height that their evil hands can’t touch it,” he said. “They want to stop, even for an hour, the fast speeding train of Iranian progress. But they will be unable to do it.”
Iran's determination to continue with its controversial nuclear program, despite six major world powers “making a fuss” about it, in Ahmadinejad’s words, was not enough to convince those powers to agree during a conference call on Wednesday to impose a fourth set of UN sanctions on Iran.
On Thursday the Wall Street Journal reported that US diplomats have removed a number of strict measures – including closing international airspace and waters for Iran’s state-owned air cargo and shipping lines, and “choking off Tehran’s access” to global banking services and capital markets – in order to make the measures more acceptable to Russia and China.
Past sanctions have not prompted Iran to slow down or suspend its nuclear program — a point privately accepted by senior US diplomats. Tehran says it is pursuing peaceful nuclear energy; many Western politicians and Israel charge that Iran wants a nuclear bomb.
Sanctions or something else?
So are sanctions a pointless default policy? Or is there a hidden strategy aimed at engendering talks about a nuclear fuel swap that both sides say remains, in some form, on the table?
“If people really believe that sanctions are going to change Iran’s fundamental nuclear policy, in terms of building and installing centrifuges [to enrich uranium], they are wrong – pure and simple,” says Gary Sick, an Iran expert at Columbia.
“The other possibility that is much more subtle, and would not be advertised, is that you mount this effort of ostensibly going for massive sanctions to persuade the Iranians to come back to the bargaining table,” says Dr. Sick, the principal White House aide during the 1979-1981 Iran hostage crisis.
That would partly depend on the US deciding – and it appears not to have done so yet, says Sick – to look again at Iran’s counterproposal to a US-backed nuclear fuel deal brokered by the UN’s nuclear watchdog agency last October.
Since then, both the US and Iran have raised the rhetorical temperature against each other. And despite a statement from President Barack Obama to mark the start of the Persian New Year last weekend, in which he said his previous offer of “dialogue” still stood, there has been little sign from either US or Iranian officials of a willingness to engage.