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

HE Dyslexia Tutor/Study Skills Tutor P/T

£21 - £22 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: Randstad Education has been help...

Newly Qualified Teachers

£90 - £115 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are currently seeking dy...

IT & Business Studies Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: ICT & Business Studies Teacher f...

IT Support Engineer (1st and 2nd Line) - London

£22000 - £24000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer (1st...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The app is due to be launched in San Francisco initially, with other 300 people currently on the waiting list  

Is it too much to ask that people turn up to meet you when they say they will?

Simon Kelner
Dylan Thomas drank himself to death in New York aged just 39  

All this Dylan Thomas fever is telling us only half the story

John Walsh
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?