Earlier today, the United Nations passed a fourth round of sanctions against Iran in a vote 12-2, with only Brazil and Turkey dissenting (and Lebanon abstaining). The sanctions are an attempt to curb Tehran’s nuclear program, which many in the international community believe Iran will use to manufacture a useable nuclear weapon. Iran has repeatedly disregarded UN demands to cease nuclear enrichment, even moving plants to secret locations to evade officials. In defiance of the UN, Iran announced earlier this year that it would enrich uranium to 20%, as well as construct new nuclear facilities. Tehran has also shown continual intransigence regarding IAEA inspections and protocol.
This latest round of sanctions includes increased measures against select individuals of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, increased security measures of vehicles coming from/going to Iran, and banning all nations from investing in Iranian nuclear technology. Given that the three previous rounds of sanctions failed to have any lasting effect on Iranian nuclear efforts, it is highly unlikely that the latest round will make a dent, either.
The Permanent Five of the UN Security Council—the US, Russia, China, Britain, and France—plus Germany (a group known as the “P5+1”), claim this latest round of sanctions is part of an ongoing strategy to use “diplomacy and pressure” to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. Some believe, however, that this latest round of sanctions is an example of how the West and its allies rely too heavily on the “pressure” aspect rather than “diplomacy.”
Last month, Brazil, Turkey, and Iran agreed upon a nuclear materials exchange program. Iranian officials consented to sending low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Brazil and Turkey in exchange for nuclear fuel for research plants in Tehran. The U.S., however, dismissed the deal because officials believed, as James M. Acton of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace explains, that it was merely a stalling tactic and Iran would not stop enriching its own uranium.
A more pragmatic approach to the Iran situation would have been for the U.S. to accept the nuclear materials exchange program. Perhaps this would not have led to the immediate cessation of enrichment programs in Iran, but it would have stood as a good-faith measure, perhaps creating an Iran more amenable to negotiations. Strong-handing merely foments Iranian ire, which will lead to a Tehran even more unwilling to work with the West.