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

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £22500 per annum + OTE £30K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - OTE £40,000

£28000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Contracts / Sales Administrator

£19500 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Knowledge of and ability to use...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Engineer - Powered Access

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They pride themselves that they...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Election catch-up: Just what the election needs – another superficially popular but foolish policy

John Rentoul
A Gold Ferrari sits outside Chanel on Sloane Street  

Sunday Times Rich List: We are no longer in thrall to very rich people

Terence Blacker
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence