U.N. Approves New Round of Sanctions Against Iran

BY Larisa Epatko  June 9, 2010 at 2:34 PM EDT

The U.N. Security Council approved a new round of sanctions targeting Iran’s nuclear program on Wednesday, sending an “unmistakable message” that Tehran must fulfill its obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), President Obama said after the vote.

The resolution passed 12-2 with Turkey and Brazil voting “no” and Lebanon abstaining.

“Iran is the only NPT signatory in the world — the only one — that cannot convince the IAEA that its nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes,” President Obama said at the White House.

Iran has said its nuclear program is for civilian energy purposes, which is permitted under the Nonproliferation Treaty. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency have been unable to verify Tehran’s intent.

Mr. Obama said the sanctions, against Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, ballistic missiles and nuclear-related investments, do not close the door to diplomacy should Iran agree to fulfill its obligations under the nuclear treaty.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said ahead of the vote: “The U.S. government and its allies are so mistaken if they think they can brandish the stick of resolution and then sit down to talk with us. Such a thing will not happen. We will talk to everyone if there is respect and fairness, but if someone wants to talk to us rudely and in a domineering manner, the response is known already,” he said at a conference in Istanbul on Tuesday, reported the Wall Street Journal.

Some commentators see the Obama administration’s gains as weaker than its predecessors. Writes Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post:

“[I]t took the administration 16 months to reach this point, during which time Iran added to its stockpile of enriched uranium and even began to enrich at higher levels. In the meantime, Obama wrote two letters to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and tried hard to win Tehran’s agreement on a confidence-building measure. The administration also exposed the existence of a secret Iranian facility near the city of Qom, which it said demonstrated anew how Iran was deceiving the world about its nuclear ambitions.

“None of that seemed to matter to the dissenters at the council. Turkey and Brazil, in fact, took the administration’s confidence-building measure — a swap of nuclear material for an Iranian medical research reactor — and revived it last month over U.S. objections. So in this case, one of the administration’s efforts at engagement may have backfired.”

Joe Klein of Time also considers the “no” votes from Turkey and Brazil:

“The no votes by Brazil and Turkey are a matter of concern and sadness. Obviously, those two emerging powers aren’t feeling too pleased that their lame bid at nuclear diplomacy with Iran fell flat. They should be included — indeed, they should be front and center — when Iran is ready to return to the table; indeed, their initiative could be the start of the next round of negotiations. They could be valuable intermediaries between Iran and the rest of the world.”

Updated 4:15 p.m.:

In an interview with Ray Suarez airing on the NewsHour, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice called the new round of sanctions “tough and comprehensive.” She said it builds on previous resolutions by setting up a strict regime of inspections, along with new financial and commercial curbs.

Of Brazil and Turkey, Rice said their “no” votes were unfortunate but not unexpected. Though they differed with other U.N. Security Council members on timing and tactics, they shared the aim of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons cabability, she said.

You can watch Rice’s full interview on Wednesday’s NewsHour.