In yet another effort to derail Iranian nuclear production, the United Nations has once again determined a new set of sanctions against it. Although the Administration expressed optimism that the sanctions would prove effective, the rest of the world doubts if there will be any change in the nation’s behavior. President Obama asserted that these were the toughest sanctions ever faced by the Iranian government.
Iran, which has disregarded all of the previous sanctions voted upon by the Security Council, immediately issued a statement promising to also ignore this set of sanctions. It seems as if whatever little leverage the UN had was greatly reduced when Brazil and Turkey last month negotiated their own side agreement with Iran to send uranium to those nations in return for fuel for a medical reactor. Coincidentally, both nations are on the Security Council. Even more coincidentally, there were only two votes against the resolution: you guessed it, Brazil and Turkey.

The thrust of these sanctions is aimed toward the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, attempting to deter military purchases, and impede financial transactions conducted by the organization. The problem with making sanctions more broad than that, and perhaps more meaningful, is that China and Russia, two of Iran’s largest trading partners, refused to permit such actions. Since we have virtually no leverage over either of these nations, we and Europe were forced to accede to their demands. Otherwise, no sanctions at all, even trivial as these were, could have been passed.

Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the UN, stated that this resolution was meaningful, credible, and significant. My wife thought the same thing about the Buffalo wing sanctions. The problem though with these Iranian sanctions, which has been the problem with virtually all sanction measures (with the notable exception of South Africa) is that for sanctions to be effective, they must put enough pressure on the nation so that they are forced to negotiate without causing undue harm on normal people. If the latter occurs, then eventually much of the rest of the world will not permit them to continue.

A problem right now for anyone trying to stop Iranian nuclear expansion is that another war seems untenable right now, since it will unify the rest of the Arab nations around them, that sanctions are difficult for the reasons stated above, but that when Iran disregards the wishes of the world and continues to increase assistance to aggressive actors in the region, it forces the world to at least pretend that it is acting to impede them.