Leading article: Iran - A small step towards international unity

Share

Following months of wrangling, the UN Security Council has agreed to impose sanctions on Iran for its refusal to suspend a nuclear energy programme that Tehran insists is purely for civilian use and that others fear masks an intention to develop nuclear weapons. The formal discussion was brief, the speeches were to the point, and the vote was unanimous. Neither Russia nor China applied a veto.

The price of unanimity, of course, was the strength of the resolution. The proposed travel ban has been watered down, as has the proposed freeze on private assets. A monitoring committee provided for by the resolution will have more discretion than Iran's fiercest critics would have liked. And Russia will be able to continue the nuclear energy co-operation programme it was keen to protect.

But the central demand - that Iran halt its uranium-enrichment programme and all nuclear research that might be judged to have a military purpose - remains in place. So does the ban on imports and exports of certain sensitive materials. And this is the point. The painstaking efforts that the Europeans have made to persuade Iran to comply with the demands of the international nuclear watchdog now have the formal backing of the UN Security Council.

This will not stop Iran's defiance. Tehran quickly made clear its contempt. In domestic political terms, President Ahmadinejad could hardly have responded otherwise, especially after his party's recent electoral setback. But this resolution puts down a marker - and that marker applies not only to Iran.

For perhaps just as significant as the signal sent to Tehran are the more general messages conveyed by the negotiation process and its successful outcome. The first is that unanimity requires give and take and that there are times when the route to enforcement will - and should - be slow and circumspect. The second is that the Security Council has learnt the lesson of the infamous resolution 1551 on Iraq and its fatal ambiguities. Russia's ambassador spelt out that there was no way this resolution could be read as authorising the use of military force.

The third - and perhaps most hopeful - is that the United States conducted itself as just another member of the Security Council rather than a country that, alone, could dictate the outcome. The irascible John Bolton was not in evidence following his recent resignation, nor - more to the point - were his attitudes. Weakened by Iraq, the US had to choose between accepting concessions, and belligerence from the sidelines. It chose concessions. This adjustment in Washington could, just, open the way for a similar shift in Tehran. That, at least, is what we must hope.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The royal dress code can't cloak Prince Charles

Joan Smith
Ed Miliband  

Rochester by-election: A little respect goes a long way, Ed Miliband

John Rentoul
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin