Fresh Sanctions, Same Old Squabbles

A nuclear agreement with Brazil and Turkey lets Iran have its cake and eat it. The deal will basically allow Iran to continue enriching uranium. What has been achieved?

Less than 24 hours after Turkey, Brazil and Iran reached a deal on settling the nuclear crisis, in a surprising move the United States - with support from the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany - issued a proposal for sanctions against Tehran.

The document was meant to make it clear to Iran and its supporters that the powers are not pleased with the way the agreement was reached, nor by its content. They are not okay with the fact that someone "stole" their show, stepped in on their exclusive realm. The anger on the part of the United States, Britain, France and Germany is understandable. Over the past three and a half years that have passed since three rounds of sanctions were imposed on Iran, they have realized that Tehran's games are all about gaining time.

But Russia was also less than thrilled about the deal brokered by Brazil and Turkey. According to this deal, Russia is expected to provide Iran the uranium fuel that will be enriched at 20 percent, in return for 1.2 tons of Iranian uranium enriched at 3.5 percent, which would be stored in Turkey. If this is the case, Russian analysts say, then Moscow should have been party to the drafting of the agreement. The Chinese stance on the matter, not surprisingly, is a lot less clear.

Beyond the method used to reach the deal, the different parties' anger revolves around its content. It is clear to the powers that it is essentially an Iranian deal - one which enables it to have its cake and eat it too; the deal will basically allow Iran to continue enrichment. As such, what has been achieved here? The original deal proposed to Iran in October 2009 was aimed at the opposite result: Iran would not enrich uranium to 20 percent, and in return would get nuclear fuel from Russia and France.

However, we should not necessarily expect that a fourth round of sanctions will be put into place against Iran anytime soon. Russia and especially China, even though they are party to the draft proposal at the Security Council, are in no rush to approve the resolution. They may not like the current deal brokered with Iran by non-permanent Security Council members Brazil and Turkey, but they do favor improving it through negotiations.