Can a Security Council 'Coalition of the Unwilling' Defy Washington's Sanctions Crusade?

Sanctions that don’t work vs. diplomacy that does

U.S. crusade for new UN sanctions against Iran has been underway for a
long time. But the new intensity, the new scurrying around to make sure
China and Russia are on board, and the new scramble for an immediate
public announcement all reflect Washington's frustration with the new
agreement with Iran brokered by Turkey and Brazil. That agreement
requires Iran to send about half of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey
in return for somewhat higher-enriched prepared fuel rods for use in
its medical reactor, which is pretty close to what the U.S. and its
allies were demanding of Iran just months ago.

the harsh U.S. response -- condemning the agreement as "just words,"
demanding that Iran make even more concessions, implying that only a
complete and utter Iranian surrender would suffice -- makes it clear
that U.S. policy towards Iran isn't about an actual nuclear weapons
threat, but about power politics. There's no question the United States
is really mad: Reports are circulating around the UN that Washington is
up to its old habits of issuing implicit threats against the two
upstart diplomatic powers. Brazil has been angling for a permanent
Security Council seat and Turkey has long been trying to join the
European Union. No dice on either one, U.S. diplomats seem to be

UN sanctions are not going to stop Iran's nuclear enrichment, still
legal under the NPT and still under UN nuclear inspections. Instead,
like economic sanctions against any country with a repressive
government, they're far more likely to impact the civilian
population. The Brazil-Turkey initiative, on the other hand, actually
takes major steps towards transferring much of Iran's enriched uranium
out of the country, increasing international oversight of its nuclear
power program and, if allowed to go forward without U.S. interference,
could well lead to a significant diminution of Iran's future
enrichment. If that were really the goal of the U.S. anti-Iran
mobilization, you'd think Washington would be pleased. Instead, many in
Congress and the Obama administration appear to be working as hard as
they can to undermine the Brazil-Turkey initiative, even though (or
maybe because) it might lead to a resolution of the current crisis.

UN sanctions could derail the new tripartite agreement. But there's one
thing that could prevent that danger: a renewed level of independence
in the UN Security Council. U.S. pressure seems to have won promises
from Russia and China that they won't veto a harsh new sanctions regime
-- but that's not the same as a promise to vote for the sanctions.

current council members Brazil and Turkey can convince some of their
allies to resist U.S. pressure, abstentions by Russia and China (and
maybe even France?) could allow a new "coalition of the unwilling" to
prevent the sanctions because not enough countries voted for them.

by Turkey and Brazil, non-permanent Council members (whom the U.S. and
the other veto-holders rarely consult on Iran policy) could stop a
sanctions move in its tracks. Can President Lula and Prime Minister
Erdogan convince a country like Japan, which has more reason than most
countries to want to abolish nukes, to vote against useless sanctions
and instead give the new diplomatic initiative time to work? Might
other council members (Lebanon, Mexico, Austria, Gabon, Bosnia,
Nigeria) be persuaded that a new round of sanctions will do nothing to
stop Iran's enrichment, but will undermine the new initiative that
might do just that?

UN Security Council said no to U.S.-British pressure in late 2002 and
early 2003, when Washington and London tried to coerce Council members
to endorse Bush's war in Iraq. That time, Germany, France, and Russia
led the opposition, and the "Uncommitted Six" (Guinea, Cameroon,
Angola, Pakistan, Chile and again, Mexico) refused. The Six said no and
finally, on February 15, 2003, the world "said no to war" in massive
protests in 665 cities around the world. Washington and London backed
down and announced they were giving up their campaign for a UN

Security Council stood defiant once before to try to stop a U.S. war.
Maybe it can do so again, so that U.S.-led UN sanctions don't destroy
the best diplomatic solution we've seen for a very dangerous crisis.

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