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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Tough sanctions against Iran needed, expert

RIA Novosti

17:46 17/06/2010
These sanctions are a double-edged message to Iran. The first message is that the international community has consolidated in the fight against both obvious and hidden nuclear threats. And the second message is that this is another attempt to convince Iran to compromise over its nuclear program.

An interview with Prof. Vladimir Sazhin, senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies given to RIA Novosti “Russian Angle” with Samir Shakhbaz.

- The UN Security Council has approved new sanctions against Iran. But all economic sanctions against it have been nothing more than a political statement, because they have had little effect on Iran’s nuclear program. The UN has made yet another political statement. What for?

- I wouldn’t say that the economic sanctions stipulated in the previous three resolutions have had no effect on Iran and its economy. Even though they were mild, they still influenced some sectors of the Iranian economy and provoked concern amongst the country’s business community.

The new sanctions introduced yesterday have financial, economic and political aspects. And they are much more severe than the previous ones.

First of all, they concern the sectors and enterprises monitored by Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), a paramilitary organization that controls the country’s military and nuclear industries.

The sanctions also focus on the banking sector and will hinder Iran’s efforts to acquire components it needs to build missiles and for its nuclear program in general.

They prohibit investment in uranium mines in other countries and extend the list of heavy weaponry that may not be supplied to Iran.
In other words, the new sanctions are much stricter.

They will also affect the maritime cargo shipments, because they stipulate inspections and monitoring of the ships and port warehouses, which is another way in which these sanctions are much stronger.

But you have noticed correctly that they contain a significant political element. It is also true that none of the sanctions imposed since 1945, since the inception of the UN, were completely effective. This is where this political element comes into play.

These sanctions are a double-edged message to Iran. The first message is that the international community has consolidated in the fight against both obvious and hidden nuclear threats. And the second message is that this is another attempt to convince Iran to compromise over its nuclear program.

If these sanctions are implemented to the degree stipulated in the resolution, they will have a serious effect not only on Iran’s economy but also on the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps. And one can speculate as to how this might alter Iran’s nuclear policy.

I don’t think sanctions, including these new sanctions against Iran, are a perfect solution; they are not. And I think that Tehran’s response to them will be harsh, at least initially. But for many reasons it is not in Iran’s interests to sever relations with international organizations, primarily the IAEA.

Therefore, I think the situation will stabilize in time and talks will probably resume, but how effective they will be is another matter. I think radical changes in the nuclear sphere are unlikely in these circumstances, given the current Iranian government. But then again, Iran is going to face certain difficulties.

- Do you agree with some analysts who think that these sanctions will benefit Iran, in a way?

- This is the opinion of mostly Iranian analysts and Iran’s leadership. You have probably heard what President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said about the sanctions. He said: “These resolutions that you pass resemble used napkins that should be thrown into a garbage can.” He even said they would facilitate the development of Iran’s internal resources.

I don’t think that is the case, but relatively harsh sanctions could help Ahmadinejad unite the population, which has been split along political and ideological lines since last year. Anyway, given the active anti-sanctions propaganda, Iranians could rally around their president, even though many of them hate him.

- Do you think there could be a diplomatic, economic or military way of resolving Iran’s nuclear problem with the current political regime?

- Putting aside such extreme scenarios as a military operation, which would be a disaster for the region, I would say that the potential of financial and economic pressure and diplomatic talks has not been exhausted.

I must repeat this: these new sanctions will not be effective immediately, but after some time a situation will arise forcing us to consider harsher sanctions. And this will be yet another message to Iran.

I think that harsh “shock and awe” sanctions, as some people describe them, could produce a result. Our president spoke about “smart sanctions” that would not affect the interests of ordinary Iranians. That would be great, but you see, if we continue to discuss harsher sanctions every 6 or 12 months, there may come a day when the country Iran loves to hate, Israel, will lose patience and deliver a strike at Iran.

Paradoxically, the use of “smart” sanctions could create a situation in which Israel would deliver a blow at the people of Iran, doing much more damage than any, even the most serious sanctions could.

There are two key points here: a limit on the export of oil from Iran and the import of gasoline to Iran. These are the crucial things. There are some areas of sensitivity, but they don’t concern Russia. They largely concern China and Japan, but above all China.

It is an interesting fact that China cut imports of Iranian oil by 38% on January 1 this year and since then has signed several contracts with Saudi Arabia. It is searching for new hydrocarbon suppliers, and I think Iran ought to scrutinize this problem, because China apparently thinks that the situation could deteriorate to the introduction of harsh, “shock and awe” sanctions.

So, if we forget about the military scenario and concentrate on putting in place harsher sanctions, we could achieve the desired result, because Iran spends massively on the defense sector and the nuclear missile program. Iran earns $55-$60 billion from oil and gas exports, but if that financial flow is limited, the Iranian leadership could be forced to ponder the necessity of cutting investment in the military and nuclear industries.

- Mr. Sazhin, thank you for your commentary and your time.

- You are welcome. Good-bye.

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