After several months of efforts, the U.S. administration has put together a new outline of sanctions against Iran, which is to be submitted to the UN Security Council for approval. The United States agreed to water down its initial demands in order to obtain support from Russia and China on imposing harsher measures against Iran if the Islamic Republic continues advancing its nuclear program. As a result, the five permanent members of the Security Council have agreed on a draft resolution.
The new package imposes an embargo on selling large weapons systems to Iran and sets harsher movement and funding restrictions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. It does not, however, provide a mechanism for enforcement and punishment. These steps in themselves will not stop the centrifuges for enriching uranium. Nor will they lead Iran to moderate its threats against Israel or its oppression of the opposition. Even after the Security Council approves the new sanctions package - the fourth so far - Iran will continue to develop its nuclear program and strive for influence in the Middle East, while its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will continue to preach against "the Zionist regime."
Still, the resolution sets before Iran a united front of world powers, who have overcome their differences and neutralized Iran's efforts to take advantage of the growing competition between the United States and China. This is an important achievement for the Obama administration. The world powers are united in their objection to a nuclear Iran, and the message has been received in Tehran - which had tried to foil the sanctions' formulation by reaching an agreement with Brazil and Turkey to enrich uranium outside Iran. The Americans found this last-minute agreement unsatisfactory and continued in their efforts to propose harsher sanctions.
The new package is expected to strengthen the United States' diplomatic bargaining chips vis-a-vis Iran. The Obama administration, which began its term striving to negotiate with Iran and failing, has toughened its stance in recent weeks. Drafting the new sanctions is merely the first step. The American resolve will be tested by the administration's response to Iran's expected disregard for the Security Council's resolution and by its success in persuading Iran to stop enriching uranium inside its borders.
The softened resolution to be submitted to the UN Security Council is far from adequate as far as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is concerned. Israel is adhering to its stance - calling on the international community to impose "paralyzing sanctions" on Iran, such as preventing the export of gasoline and other fuels. At the same time, Israel is continuing its preparations for a military confrontation, as demonstrated by the national home front drill set for next week.
Although Israel finds the sanctions to be brought before the Security Council far from satisfactory, the agreement reached by the world powers is extremely important. The expected ratcheting up of sanctions puts Iran in a recalcitrant, lawbreaking position and increases the diplomatic pressure on it. Israel must back the U.S. administration on this matter and remain within the international consensus, rather than disrupt it with unnecessary threats or unilateral acts.
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