The UN Security Council 10-to-2 vote in favor of sanctions against Iran, even though it was erased by a Soviet veto, is considered by American diplomats to represent a moral victory for the United States.
But ironically, the vote against Iran may have isolated the US rather than Iran.
US diplomats believe that the vote:
* Puts the world community squarely alongside the US with regard to the hostages.
* Obliged the Soviet Union to use its veto for the second time within one week to stop the will of the world community from being implemented.
Many third-world and even some Western diplomats who voted with the US privately call the US insistance on the vote on sanctions as a serious mistake. One leading diplomat known for his moderation did not hesitate to call it "stupid."
Some council members who voted alongside the US as well as those who abstained, feel that the vote will not contribute to the welfare and safety of the hostages. They believe that the US government was moved by domestic considerations, and they reject the argument that "increasing isolation of Iran from the world community will persuade its authorities to release the hostages."
Most council members, including some whose friendliness toward the US cannot be doubted, are of the opinion that economic sanctions against Iran will have little effect. Past experience (Ethiopia, Cuba, Rhodesia) proves that such measures strengthen the regime and the will of the people to resist outside pressure.
As if to confirm this view, the Iranian Foreign Ministry issued a statement Jan. 14 stating that the Iranian government considered the UN vote on sanctions "null and void."
Some council members -- as well as some high UN officials -- feel that the vote should have been delayed until after Jan. 25, when general elections will take place in Iran, and allow for the establishment of a government with whom it presumably will be possible to negotiate.
They also feel that as a result of UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim's visit to Tehran, and in the light of the fluctuating and complex political situation in Iran, possibilities for a negotiated solution can be detected. For this reason they feel further time should have been granted for quiet diplomacy.
While these council members understand that US patience is wearing thin and respect American anxiety with regard to the hostages, they sincerely believe that all avenues toward a peaceful solution have not been explored and that the vote on sanctions will complicatem matters, not ease them.
Quite a large number of council members share the feeling that -- contrary to the point of view expressed by the US delegation -- the holding of hostages, illegal and outrageous as it may be, does not, properly speaking, represent a "threat to peace."
"If the illegal occupation of Namibia by South Africa is not to be considered as a threat to peace, if Israel's defiance of the UN in southern Lebanon and on the Left Bank of the Jordan are not to be considered threats to peace, how can one consider the holding of 50 American hostages as a threat to peace?" asks one ambassador who feels the Iranian crisis is essentially a bilateral matter.
In the opinion of many analysts here, the moral victory represented by the 10 -to-2 vote is tainted by the very fact that the US does not intend to submit the matter to the General Assembly, as it did last week with regard to Afghanistan.
The reason the US does not move the Iranian crisis to the General Assembly is because it is well aware that it would not receive the necessary two-thirds support.
While two-thirds, at least, of the General Assembly consider the Soviet Union as the aggressor in Afghanistan, Iran is considered by many here to be a victim -- a victim which made a mistake, but still a victim -- rather than a culprit.