"A nation whose youth have been able to achieve the nuclear fuel cycle with empty hands - rest assured that it will be able to reach other peaks," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the Iranian public last week.
This is how Iran intends to react to yesterday's United Nations vote, which unanimously ratified sanctions on Iran.
The Security Council's modified sanctions are intended, at this stage, as a warning to Iran to stop developing its nuclear program for military purposes. The sanctions could lead to tougher measures, if the warning goes unheeded, excluding military action.
The resolution will not stop Iran's ongoing nuclear activity. Iran knew how to import nuclear know-how and means in the past, even under the watchful eyes of the international community. Apparently, this covert relationship does not necessarily depend on the cooperation of other countries.
Iran, which declared the resolution illegal yesterday, may also cease to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency and condition its cooperation on refraining from imposing the sanctions.
Iran assumes that the sanctions leave it enough space to continue the negotiations that stalled in August, without the threat of military attack. As Iran sees it, the resolution is a blow to the United States, because Iran demanded throughout the negotiation rounds the U.S.'s commitment not to attack it. The U.S. refused to make such an undertaking and now the UN resolution rules out the military option, at least for the time being.
The major obstacles the UN resolution encountered and the number of concessions European nations and the U.S. had to make, strengthen Iran's assumption that the UN would have difficulty adopting harsher sanctions. Moreover, Tehran sees its international relations - from trade and oil agreements with India, Pakistan and Turkey, to its considerable influence in Iraq and its economic and political ties with Russia - as an effective block against worse punishment.
Despite the defeat Ahmadinejad suffered in the local elections, he can rely on public opinion, in addition to the radical stream in the Iranian government. Recent polls indicate that a large part of the public agrees with the government's position that the nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes and that Iran has the full right to develop it.
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