Why Israel supports watered-down Iran nuclear sanctions
Israel says that Iran nuclear sanctions proposed to the UN Security Council are weaker than it would like, but the symbolism of international unity is important.
Israel is applauding the US push for a fourth round of Iran nuclear sanctions, despite deep-seated concern that the process of diplomatic engagement and then sanctions against Tehran won't stop it from making a weapon.Skip to next paragraph
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It's a glass-half-full approach that's aimed at preserving international unity on preventing Israel's adversary from acquiring nuclear weapons. By taking a back seat to a UN-led sanctions process, Israel is also seeking to deflect Arab and Iranian accusations of hypocrisy that it wants to deny rivals nuclear programs after it secretly developed nuclear weapons of its own.
To be sure, the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn't believe that the proposed United Nations Security Council sanctions go far enough toward forcing Iran to abandon what it believes is an Iranian effort to acquire nuclear weapons. But Israel is clinging to the hope that individual countries will in the future decide on stiffer punishments that may have a greater impact.
"We always knew that a UN resolution would require international consensus and would be watered down without the teeth we hoped for. Nevertheless we support the resolution,'' said an Israeli government official who requested to remain anonymous. "It shows the international community united acting against the Iranian program. It's an important symbolic act.''
That symbolism was amplified by the timing of the sanctions draft proposal, which was unveiled just hours after Iran, Brazil, and Turkey announced an agreement for an Iran nuclear fuel swap. Under the deal, Iran would ship more than half of its stockpiled low-enriched uranium to Turkey, which would hold it in escrow until Iran received fuel rods for a small research reactor in Tehran. It isn't clear what country is willing to provide the fuel rods.
Diplomatic dividends for Israel
Though the deal triggered speculation that Iran might still be able to exploit rifts between the West and permanent Security Council members Russia and China, the US-sponsored sanctions resolution swiftly shifted focus to a collective censure against Tehran.
"The international community is in line with Israel's belief that Iran's nuclear program is not for civilian purposes only,'' says Meir Javedanfar, an expert on Iran based in Tel Aviv. "[The sanctions draft] shows that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's government failed. The world is not against Iran enriching uranium, but the world is against Iran making a bomb. And as long as Iran hasn't answered the International Atomic Energy Authority's questions, that will be the working assumption.''