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

Project Manager (App development, SAP, interfacing)

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum + excellent company benefits: Clearwater People Solu...

Systems Developer Technical Lead

£65000 - £70000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Energy Engineer

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy En...

Techincal Accountant-Insurance-Bank-£550/day

£475 - £550 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Technical Accountant-Insuran...

Day In a Page

A selection of 'Pro-Choice' badges are displayed on the coat of a demonstrator during a march from the Garden of Remembrance to the Dail (Irish Parliament) in Dublin, Ireland  

Ireland's refusal to provide a safe abortion to a suicidal rape victim is a national shame

Peadar O‘Grady
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment