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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Analysis: Round Two Against Iran

Council on Foreign Relations

March 20, 2007
Prepared by: Lionel Beehner

On the eve of the Persian New Year, nervousness permeates (RFE/RL) the air over Iran instead of festivity. Across the globe, the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany appear united on a new draft resolution that would saddle Tehran with stricter punitive sanctions (Reuters) for the second time in the past four months. The sanctions are in response to Iran’s refusal to suspend its uranium-enrichment program. Iran claims it needs a nuclear program for peaceful, electricity-generating purposes and asserts its right to develop it under an international treaty. But Europe and the United States suspect Iran intends to build a nuclear bomb.

The first Security Council resolution last December was limited, freezing the assets of a small handful of Iranian business and individuals with ties to the atomic energy program. It was widely viewed as ineffective. The next round of sanctions, however, is expected to be more comprehensive and target Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as well as its burgeoning arms trade. Iran’s defense industry has grown significantly in recent years. Iran sells weaponry, not to mention technical know-how, to dozens of countries throughout the developing world, including countries accused of genocide (Daily Times) like Sudan. Tehran also supplies arms to non-state actors like Hezbollah and Hamas, considered terrorist organizations by the United States and EU. Not only is Iran a major arms exporter but also a large importer, getting the bulk of its weapon systems from Russia, as this Backgrounder explains.

Experts disagree if an arms embargo against Iran will do the trick. First, a resolution would not affect Tehran’s alleged illicit transfers of weapons to terrorist groups or Iraqi militias. Second, Russia is reportedly seeking to water down the draft resolution’s wording to exempt existing arms contracts and only refer to future arms deals.

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