After months of negotiation, the U.N. Security Council approved new sanctions on Iran, forcing the country to draw down its nuclear program.
The new measures are a mild uptick compared to the ones set in the Security Council’s three previous rounds, banning a broader range of arms sales to Iran, restricting a few more banks, freezing the Revolutionary Guard’s assets, and establishing a new framework for inspecting Iranian cargo ships.
But while jumping on Iran’s nukes with both feet sounds like a bonus, the sanctions will almost certainly fall short of busting up the country’s nuclear ambitions.
Three previous rounds of sanctions failed to leave an impression on Iranian nukers, who have since been busy enriching uranium to higher and higher levels. The well-reasoned fear is that Iran’s uranium will be used as fissile material in a nuclear weapon; Iran argues that their nuclear effort is all about peace and energy.
Iran may find encouragement in the fact that both Turkey and Brazil voted "nay" on the resolution. No country had voted against penalizing Iran in the three previous rounds of U.N. sanctions.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the new measures has nothing to do with sanctions, however, and everything to do with China and Russia.
Typical sanction naysayers, China and Russia got on board early with the U.S.’s effort against Iran, demonstrating a flashy show of unity against the Middle East power.
But getting their vote cost the sanctions its teeth; China and Russia made sure the new measures wouldn’t affect Iran’s broader economy, or inhibit their own financial interests in the country.
So after months of begging and pleading, the new Council resolution fails to achieve the “crippling sanctions” that Secretary of State Clinton promised a year ago, although she contends that “these are the most significant sanctions Iran has ever faced.”
Whether they’ll bring the nation back to the negotiating table, or inspire swifter movement toward building a nuclear weapon, the sanctions are here, and it’s Iran’s turn to move—the bomb’s in its court.