UNITED NATIONS - The big powers struck back at Turkey and Brazil's uranium swap deal with Iran by putting their draft sanctions resolution on the table, in effect telling the two nations they were not going to run the show.
In the UN Security Council, where Turkey and Brazil are rotating members, a resolution can probably be adopted without their votes. But at the same time, the United States and its allies do not want a political split in the 15-nation body -- especially since the Council approved unanimously three previous rounds of sanctions against Iran's nuclear program. So hard bargaining lies ahead.
The 10-page text was introduced to Council members by US Ambassador Susan Rice after weeks of negotiations with Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany in an effort to stop Tehran from enriching uranium that could be used in a nuclear weapon -- an ambition Iran strongly denies.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that agreement among the six had been reached, following a phone call on Tuesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. On Monday, Iran announced a tentative deal with Turkey and Brazil to send about half of its low-enriched uranium abroad in return for fuel rods for use in a medical research reactor, an apparent effort to prevent another sanctions resolution. The deal, called a "confidence building measure" was similar to one Iran rejected last year.
In making public the agreement among the big powers, Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
Brazil and Turkey balk
Brazil and Turkey were not happy. "Historically it has been shown that those imposing sanctions are usually the ones violating the sanctions," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters during a European Union meeting in Madrid. And Brazil's UN ambassador, Maria Luiza Ribero Viotti told reporters in New York:
"Brazil will not engage in the negotiation at this moment because of the important accord signed in Tehran. This is the moment to continue diplomacy and continue negotiations. We should give a chance to the treaty signed in Tehran to produce results, negotiated results for a peaceful resolution for the Iranian problem. Brazil is going to continue with Turkey, the efforts for negotiations and we hope other countries will join us."
Russia's UN ambassador, Vitali Churkin, called the draft "balanced" and said, "It's a language, which is acceptable to us, a language we can live with." Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong, whose country has extensive trade relations with Iran said Beijing wanted a "balanced" resolution but made clear "the sanctions were not for punishing innocent people and should not harm trade."
And France's UN ambassador, Gérard Araud, told reporters the resolution was forged by "six countries which have very different political positions and different interests," and was "clear evidence of the grave concerns of the international community."
The sanctions proposals are a compromise between the Western nations and Russia and China and do not include some measures the Obama administration wanted, such as restrictions on Iran's oil trade or a ban on new investments in the energy sector. The United States and France also wanted a total arms embargo but the draft bans the sale of battle tanks, warships, attack helicopters and other heavy weapons.
Cargo ships inspections
The new draft calls for the creation of a framework for carrying out international inspections of cargo ships if there is a reason to suspect a vessel is carrying banned materials. But the country flying the flag of the vessel has to give permission.
It bans opening new branches of Iranian banks if they are linked to nuclear proliferation and it adds more members of the Revolutionary Guards Corps to a list that freezes their assets abroad. The Security Council previously demanded Iran suspend uranium enrichment and prohibit development of ballistic missiles.
The draft also prohibits any military action against Iran, a proviso put in many resolutions by Russia and others since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.
Despite the measures being weaker than Washington wanted, a Security Council resolution is necessary before many nations, especially those in the European Union, will undertake unilateral sanctions, which the US Congress is also considering (albeit with additional sanctions against anyone violating potential US measures, a provision bound to anger friends and foes alike).
A Security Council resolution requires nine votes in favor and no veto from the five permanent members, so adoption is possible without Brazil, Turkey -- and Lebanon, whose government includes the Hezbollah group, backed by Iran. Still three negative votes, and perhaps more, emphasize global divisions and could have an impact on enforcement.
And if anybody here likes reading about the Global South...
The Iran nuclear deal and the new premier league of global powers
Brazil and Turkey are determined to pursue diplomacy and compromise – even if it means upsetting Washington
The furious row between the Obama administration and the leaders of Brazil and Turkey over how best to handle Iran's nuclear ambitions, following this week's controversial "uranium swap" deal in Tehran, reflects a more fundamental and widening disagreement over how the world should be run in the 21st century.
On Iran, as on other issues that it regards as critical to its security and national interest, Washington expects to have its own way – and is accustomed to getting it. If necessary, it stands ready to impose its will. This is what secretary of the state, Hillary Clinton, tried to do this week by whipping the UN security council into line.
Brazil and Turkey, two leading members of a new premier league of emerging global powers, have a quite different approach. They stress persuasion and compromise. In the case of Iran, instead of ultimatums, deadlines and sanctions, they prefer dialogue. It helps that neither country feels threatened by Tehran.
Lula da Silva, Brazil's popular president, typifies this outlook. He gave Clinton fair warning earlier this year that it was "not prudent to push Iran against a wall". More broadly, Lula has championed the cause of emerging countries, challenged the rich world's assumptions at the Copenhagen climate summit, and bearded the US over Cuba and Hugo Chávez.
Lula speaks for a world that was formed in the west's image but is increasingly rejecting its tutelage and its ideas. China and India are the foremost members of this pack. But their leaders' overriding priority is to build up their countries' economic strengths. For most part, Beijing avoids open fights with the Americans and their west-European allies. The time will come when that will change – but not yet.
Reacting angrily to Clinton's implied suggestion that somehow they had been suckered into the uranium deal by the crafty Iranians, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Brazil's ambassador to the UN, said Brazil would not co-operate with US-initiated security council discussions on a new resolution. Without unanimity in the council, new sanctions are even less likely to be honoured or effectively implemented than is already the case now.
Brazil's foreign minister, Celso Amorim, also warned Washington to think again. "We have a chance to achieve a peaceful, negotiated solution [with Iran]. Those who turn down that possibility, or who think that sanctions or other measures would get us closer, they'll have to take responsibility for that." Such robust language is an eloquent expression of the changing power dynamic between the old superpower and its new rivals.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister and, like Lula, the leader of an emerging regional power, has a more direct interest in what happens in Iran. The two countries have a common border and a common belief that the Middle East has seen too much interference by foreign powers. Ankara does not want a nuclear-armed Iran any more than it wants a nuclear-armed Israel. In fact, it seeks to empty the region of all weapons of mass destruction.
But Erdogan is increasingly resistant to the US way of doing things, whether it is turning a blind eye to Israel's Gaza depredations, lecturing Turkey on Armenian history, or maintaining double standards on nuclear weapons. Like most Turks, Erdogan opposed the invasion of Iraq. He has led a rapprochement with Syria, another American bete noire. And he suggested this week that Washington was behaving arrogantly in dismissing the Iran deal.
"This is the time to discuss whether we believe in the supremacy of law or the law of the supremes and superiors," he said. "While they [the US] still have nuclear weapons, where do they get the credibility to ask other countries not to have them?" Yet despite his obvious anger, Erdogan still answered Clinton's criticism that the timeline for the uranium swap was "amorphous". Iran was expected to fulfil its part of the deal within one month, otherwise it would "be on its own", he said.
Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, made clear Ankara's opposition to further sanctions – and that he was not worried about upsetting the Americans. "We don't want any new sanctions in our region because it affects our economy, it affects our energy policies, it affects our relations in our neighbourhood," he said. Without Turkish co-operation, any new measures will struggle to have an impact.
That may prove to be the case anyway. Overlooked in the furore is the consideration that, thanks to stiff Chinese and Russian opposition, the proposed new sanctions, even if agreed as drafted, are fairly weak. This is nothing like the "crippling" package promised by Clinton, is largely voluntary or non-binding in nature, and will have no effect on Iran's oil and gas sales – its main source of income.
Supplementary, tougher measures are expected from the EU at a later date while individual countries, such as the US and Britain, may take additional, unilateral steps. So what the US would like to portray as the international community's united front against Iran is likely to boil down, in reality, to a narrowly-based coalition of the willing involving Washington and a handful of west-European states.
This week's symbolically significant attempt by Brazil and Turkey to do things differently, and the divisions the subsequent row exposed, suggests this already rickety traditional international security architecture, maintained and policed by a few self-appointed countries, cannot hold much longer. Power is shifting away from the west. You can almost feel it go.
Well, that was a very clear and even humiliating finger Brazil and Turkey just got. Good luck with this mess, P5+1 ^_^.