The United Nations Security Council was right to strengthen sanctions against Iran over its apparent ambition to acquire nuclear weapons. In particular, Russia and China should be credited for voting for sanctions and rebuffing the weak agreement arranged by Turkey and Brazil to process enriched uranium outside Iran, which served as an excuse for maintaining the existing levels of sanctions.
The sanctions focus on Iran's Revolutionary Guard, which helps arrange for the development of much of Iran's nuclear program through front companies, and Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, which moves arms for Iran in defiance of existing sanctions.
But the prohibited practices deal mainly with Iran's capacity for military attack, and its accumulation of uranium, and do not affect its economy. Tougher sanctions could have stopped Iran from importing refined petroleum (or exporting crude) targeting Iran's small refining capacity and its reliance on foreign oil sales. It is unfortunate, moreover, that the sanctions focus just on proliferation, and not on the activities that allow proliferation, like financing.
In any case, the UN resolution, as with others before it, may not stop the flow of materials of interest to Iranian mischief-makers; Iran has shown much ingenuity, sometimes with the compliance of Western entities, in evading past sanctions. It has also continued its nuclear program by increments, capitalizing on disagreements among Security Council members, and playing cat-and-mouse games with inspectors.
But that's what makes the sanctions a geopolitical success. Getting Russia and China, of late the most reluctant players, on board has created more unanimity among the veto-wielding members of the Security Council than Iran has had to face in some time. Brazil and Turkey, two emerging economic powers, showed that when it comes to playing the role of honest brokers, they still have work to do. No single UN resolution will end Iran's nuclear ambitions, but this UN resolution demonstrates a welcome resolve to head them off.
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