But it isn’t clear who clearly loses here besides the United States. Leaning on a veto threat until the very last, the Russians shielded the top Iranians who run the nuclear program from a travel ban — a manged to save their light-water reactor at Bushehr. The resolution bans transfers of enrichment and reprocessing equipment, which would be helpful if Iran wasn’t already technologically self-sufficient in both. (It is already enriching uranium, and has laid all the groundwork for a plutonium-reprocessing capability). Further economic sanctions (under Article 41) are darkly hinted at.
Underlying all of this is the great unanswered question of the Iraq War’s Resolution 1441: Does the U.S. need Council permission to use force? For the U.S., the key issue is how to enforce Iran’s obligations. For the Europeans, the key issue is how to keep the U.S. from enforcing those obligations itself. The resolution text leaves the point ambiguous and allows all sides to claim authority for their position–just like Resolution 1441–and that is bad for the United States, which is giving the impression that it has given up on any threat to use force.
So far, the Europeans have used the Security Council as a brilliant device for containing the United States. But what happened to containing Iran? The further economic sanctions hinted at open up another interval of many months during which the Iranians know they can plow full steam ahead with no consequences. This resolution was little more than a permit for Iran to Ahmadinejad to throw the big “coming out” party he plans for February, when Iran is set to declare itself a nuclear state.
It’s interesting that those who strongly believe we can contain a nuclear Iran have so little interest in containing it now.</i>