U.S. President Barack Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama Photo by Archive
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Israel believes the sanctions against Iran that were approved by the UN Security Council yesterday, after a six-month delay, will not be enough to get Iran to halt its nuclear program.

The fight is set to continue in the U.S. Congress, which may vote in favor of more sanctions. Tehran has already announced the sanctions will not force it to change its policy.

The Obama administration, harshly criticized over recent weeks for its weak foreign policy in the face of Turkey's provocative conduct in the Gaza flotilla affair, can today celebrate something of an achievement.

Yes, the Iranian delay in responding to propositions from the world powers won them six months of progress as they proceeded with their nuclear program. And yes, the sanctions had to be considerably diluted to allow Russia and China to come on board.

All the same, Obama proved true to his word and took a serious step against Tehran, with strong global backing. Of the 15 members of the Security Council, only two - Turkey and Brazil, which have reached a deal under which Iran will deposit much of its low-enriched uranium in Turkey - voted against the sanctions, and Lebanon, despite Iranian influence over Hezbollah, was bold enough to abstain.

If the agreement reached by Iran, Brazil and Turkey is proof of anything, it is proof of the fact that Iran can still be pressured. Faced with a threat of sanctions, the ayatollahs agreed to take a more flexible position, if only to get some wiggle room.

Both Israel and the United States realize that the new sanctions won't bring Iran to its knees; the key to that is in the complementary sanctions, the ones the Americans intend to impose together with like-minded countries, beginning with the United Kingdom.

These sanctions, unlike the ones approved by the United Nations, could prove paralyzing for the Iranian market, and especially for the Revolutionary Guard.

The United States hopes sanctions will breathe new life into the Iranian opposition, which this weekend will be marking the first anniversary of the elections hijacked by the incumbent government. The Iranian government, for its part, will be trying to exploit the sanctions as a focal point to rally the people against foreign subversives.

The imposition of the UN sanctions could have immediate ramifications for the Middle East. The region is tense as it is, especially given the ongoing threat to Israel's northern border and the events of the flotilla.

Turkey is changing the rules of the regional game.

The vote against sanctions sets up Ankara as an ally of the radical axis led by Iran, and Turkey is also moving toward disputing Israel's very legitimacy, its right to self-defense and even its right to exist.

Iran announced this week it plans to send a flotilla of its own; but it's doubtful that it is interested in a direct naval confrontation with Israel at this point in time, and we may also assume that the U.S. and Egypt will intervene.

The proposed Iranian flotilla is merely an indication of the potential Iran sees in distracting the rest of the world from the most important topic on the global agenda: the Iranian nuclear program and Tehran's blatant disregard of UN resolutions aiming to halt it.

Iran is playing a dangerous game, which can set off a regional conflagration under the right circumstances.

It's impossible to disentangle the flotilla fallout from the approval of sanctions against Iran. Obama hinted as much in his statement yesterday on the status quo in Gaza being intolerable. (As Israel is pointing out to the United States, in recent months Israel has eased the blockade of Gaza somewhat, allowing more goods to travel through. )

Resolving Jerusalem's difference of opinion with Washington over the flotilla raid will require a real change in the Gaza blockade and an Israeli willingness to set up an inquiry committee whose composition and authority the Americans deem satisfactory.