|The vote to
increase sanctions on Iran might not produce the intended results [AFP]
After six months of intense US and Israeli lobbying, the UN Security
Council has voted for a new round of sanctions against Iran.
But most commentators agree that Resolution 1929 is so watered down –
as a result of Chinese and Russian efforts – that it will have little
or no impact on Iran’s nuclear energy programme or Iranian trade and
Iran has lived with similar sanctions for more than three decades and
with none of the country’s key economic sectors targeted by the new
sanctions – and many provisions in the new resolution voluntary rather
than mandatory – there is no reason to believe that Iran will face any
serious hardship now.
The timing of this latest round of sanctions – coming a few days
before the first anniversary of Iran’s controversial presidential
elections and a few weeks after what was hailed by many as a landmark
nuclear fuel swap deal between Turkey, Brazil and Iran – raises many
Key among these is why did the Americans reject Iran’s fuel swap
offer and how could such toothless sanctions be considered a step in the
Undermined and delegitimised
The only feasible rationale for imposing further sanctions in the
face of Iran’s obvious willingness to negotiate must be found not in any
wish to reduce the threat posed by nuclear weapons, but instead in the
geopolitical interests of a few power-hungry countries – and their
allies and client states – who possess an undemocratic veto power in the
The UN, it appears, does not desire a nuclear-free Middle East.
After the Iraq and Afghanistan debacles, such actions by the UN
Security Council only serve to further delegitimise the UN and to
undermine its charter.
While the first round of sanctions against Iran were unanimously
adopted, this latest round – the fourth in as many years – was called "a
mistake" by Turkey and Brazil, who voted against the motion, while
Lebanon abstained – pointing to the clear lack of consensus within the
The senseless nature of the situation was immediately obvious as
statements emerged from various quarters.
the most willing partner for rapprochement with the US [GALLO/GETTY]
On the one hand there were the Chinese who argued for negotiations as
the best way forward both before and after voting in favour of further
This stance may have been intended as a clever public relations
exercise, but its inherent contradiction is glaring.
China has gained a far greater share of Iran’s trade and investment
opportunities over the past decade and has managed to further boost her
opportunities by taking the West for a "voluntary sanctions" ride that
is destined to further isolate the latter from Iran’s market.
There are several emerging markets and technological alternatives in
the new post-financial crisis world economic order.
While Iran certainly does not need greater economic cooperation with
the West, the latter’s insistence on limiting their own trade
opportunities with one of the world’s largest economies – and one that
owns vast amounts of natural gas and oil – is quite baffling.
It does, however, make good sense to Chinese strategists.
Shrewd geopolitical game
Russia too has played its geopolitical game shrewdly. Iran’s huge gas
reserves threaten Russia’s dominance in supplying Europe and others.
Further "voluntary sanctions" by the latter help to maintain Russia’s
Furthermore, closer collaboration between Iran and the US would
reduce the Americans’ losses in Iraq and Afghanistan, and reduce
Russia’s influence. Russia would much rather keep Iran and the US at
each other’s throats.
It is for this reason that Russia can vote for sanctions ostensibly
designed to limit Iran’s nuclear capabilities, while at the same time
planning to open a new nuclear power station in Iran in August.
Russia is also talking about helping to build new nuclear sites in
Iran, and even reserves the right to supply Iran with the kind of
weapons that would effectively defend Iran’s nuclear installations
against any foreign attack.
All of these "exemptions" were included in a UN resolution allegedly
aimed at reducing Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
So a geopolitical game looks set to continue with comical
With nothing offered in return for its willingness to negotiate, Iran
has no incentive to return to nuclear talks.
With limited options left for talks with Iran, the US will continue
to limp along in the Middle East, stuck in quagmires and spending beyond
its means while anti-American sentiments are further boosted in the
At the same time, the Europeans decline in economic terms and global
influence, while the Chinese and Russians continue to rise.
Add to this a shameless display of what may be described as "nuclear
apartheid" by the nuclear-armed culprits at the direct expense of the
After decades of aimless talks, the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA) recently managed to put Israel’s known illegal nuclear
weapons on the agenda.
But what hope can the world really have for a serious debate when it
is only Iran – which has no nuclear weapons and which has endured more
than 4,000 invasive IAEA inspections to date – that faces sanctions?
Ahmadinejad: A willing partner
It is hard to fathom what real long-term benefits the US is hoping to
gain from its obstructionism and exceptionalism when it comes to the
Perhaps the US administration imagined that by pressing for more
sanctions just before the June 12 anniversary, it may undermine the
But the Iranian opposition’s position on the nuclear issue is no less
determined. And no Iranian group can hope to gain power by challenging
the Iranian government on the basis of foreign dictates. To imagine
otherwise is to misunderstand Iranians.
In fact, and despite the rhetoric, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian
president, has turned out to be the most willing partner for
rapprochement with the US in a long time.
He has made several gestures, starting with a congratulatory letter
to Barack Obama, the US president, upon his election, and a daring
proposal for a nuclear fuel swap deal that was largely in line with a
proposal made by the UN six months earlier.
But Obama has responded with New Year messages to the Iranian people
and sanctions against their economy.
On no known occasion has the current – or previous – US
administration made any direct approach to the Iranian leaders for
talks. Quite the opposite: Whether it is the nuclear issue or Middle
East affairs, Iran has been pointedly excluded from the list of
Irrelevant and biased
So, with the negotiations door firmly shut by the West, Iran has
little option but to turn its back on the UN’s nuclear apartheid
policies, and to continue to build its economy and strategic relations
with the countries of the South, while those of the North continue to
To the great majority of the people of Iran and the wider world, the
UN Security Council is growing increasingly irrelevant and biased.
The US’ games have in effect crippled the UN.
Perhaps this is one of those hidden aims too, not just to elevate the
US position versus the UN, but also to ensure that US allies never face
the consequences of their excesses, including those on the nuclear
Massoud Parsi is a development economist and commentator
on Iranian affairs.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own
and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.