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After UN approval of a new package of modest sanctions against Iran on Saturday, Israel is beginning to think about the day after Teheran might be forced to stop uranium enrichment and the need to deprive it of the "fruits of its labors," The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The UN Security Council voted unanimously to impose moderately tougher sanctions against Iran, hoping to send a strong message to Teheran that it will grow more isolated by refusing to suspend enrichment.
Although the road to getting Iran to stop its nuclear program is still long, one government official said, Israel's diplomatic efforts have begun focusing on convincing its allies that before the international community agrees to renew talks with Iran over the nuclear issue, Teheran must prove that it will suspend its enrichment "over time," and not just for a short period.
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These efforts are also aimed at "denying Iran access to the fruits of its labors," the official said. He said that, since August 2005, Iran has accumulated a "few hundred tons" of various grades of enriched uranium, in addition to its stockpile of hundreds of centrifuges.
"There will be a need to deny them access to this," the official added.
The 15 members of the Security Council on Saturday approved sanctions including a ban on Iranian arms exports and a freeze of the assets of 28 additional people and organizations involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programs. About a third of those are linked to the Revolutionary Guard, an elite military corps.
"This resolution sends an unambiguous signal to the government and people of Iran... that the path of nuclear proliferation by Iran is not one that the international community can accept," said British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki rejected the sanctions and said Iran had no intention of suspending its enrichment program.
"The world must know - and it does - that even the harshest political and economic sanctions or other threats are far too weak to coerce the Iranian nation to retreat from their legal and legitimate demands," Mottaki told the Security Council after the vote. "Suspension is neither an option nor a solution."
Senior government officials in Jerusalem were watching the situation carefully, hoping the resolution would send Teheran the message that the world was taking its failure to comply with the previous resolution very seriously.
"Israel's position all along has been that there is a need to deepen and widen sanctions, and this appears to be what is being done," one senior government official said Saturday night.
Iran has vowed that the sanctions would only motivate it further in its pursuit of nuclear power, a message Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki delivered in an address to the Security Council before the vote.
Mottaki made the trip instead of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who claimed he had canceled his appearance because the US failed to deliver his visa in time. The State Department denied the allegation and said visas had been issued for Ahmadinejad and members of his delegation.
The six world powers that drafted the new sanctions resolution spent Friday trying to overcome objections from several council members, reflecting concerns that anything short of consensus would weaken efforts to rein in Iran's nuclear defiance.
Senior Israeli officials pointed out that a consensus was not needed for the resolution to pass, but would give the resolution greater "political and moral" weight.
The officials said that if the non-aligned countries on the council voted against the resolution, it would "deflect the impact" of the sanctions. Abstentions or "no" votes by these countries could lead them and other non-aligned countries to say that they were not bound by the resolutions, the officials warned.
Currently, the non-aligned countries on the council include Congo, Ghana, Indonesia, Qatar, South Africa, Panama and Peru. The other members, in addition to the five permanent representatives - the US, Britain, France, Russia and China - are Slovakia, Belgium and Italy.
The UN sanctions are viewed in Jerusalem as one of a number of parallel strategies being used to apply pressure on Iran. These include efforts to impose supplemental financial sanctions, led by the Americans and increasingly supported by European governments and financial institutions; the enactment of uniform regulations throughout the EU which make implementation of sanctions possible; and America's deterrent efforts in the Gulf.
In addition, Israeli officials expressed satisfaction with the fact that Russia has decided not to ship fuel to Iran's nuclear plant at Bushehr until Teheran freezes its uranium enrichment program.
The actions brought to the UN Saturday included several minor concessions, but no changes to the key sanctions agreed upon last week by the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany.
The new sanctions - already a compromise between the stronger measures favored by the US, Britain, France and Germany and the softer approach advocated by Russian and China - are considered modest. The ban on exports is among the harshest measures, but many of Iran's arms sales may not be affected because they are illicitly sent to terrorist groups like Lebanon's Hizbullah and Shi'ite militias in Iraq.
Still, world powers hoped that approving the resolution quickly and unanimously would signal that Iran will face stricter sanctions each time it ignores a Security Council deadline to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to produce nuclear energy or weapons. The council imposed its first set of sanctions in December, but Iran responded by expanding its uranium enrichment activity.
The latest sanctions are "serious measures that underscore the severity with which the council views rejection of its resolutions," acting US Ambassador to the UN Alejandro Wolff said.
He warned that if Iran continues to defy Security Council demands "we will continue to add measures and continue to up the pressure."
Iran says it will never give up its right under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel, although it has offered to provide guarantees that its nuclear program will not be diverted toward weapons, as the US and some of its allies fear.
Ahmadinejad had said he wanted to make those arguments himself before the Security Council, but Iran accused the US of thwarting his planned trip by delaying the delivery of his visa.
State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said the visas for Ahmadinejad and his delegation had arrived in plenty of time and suggested the Iranian president was "unwilling to stand before the council and take the heat for his continued defiance of the international community."
Iranian leaders kept up their defiant rhetoric in the days leading up to the vote, with Ahmadinejad calling the Security Council illegitimate and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggesting Iran would pursue nuclear activities outside international regulations if faced with more sanctions.
In December, the Security Council ordered all countries to stop supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs and to freeze assets of 10 key Iranian companies and 12 individuals related to those programs.
The new resolution calls for voluntary restrictions on travel by the individuals subject to sanctions, on arms sales to Iran and on new financial assistance or loans to the Iranian government.
It asks the UN's nuclear watchdog body, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to report back in 60 days on whether Iran has suspended enrichment and warns Iran could face further measures if it does not. But, it also says all sanctions will be suspended if Iran halts enrichment and makes clear that Teheran can still accept the package of economic incentives and political rewards offered last year if it complies with the council's demands.
The latest resolution met with surprising resistance from several elected non-permanent Security Council members who complained their views were not getting enough consideration from the five veto-wielding permanent members.
In a key compromise, the document referred to a past resolution from the IAEA calling for the Middle East to be free of weapons of mass destruction. Indonesia and Qatar had wanted the council to make that appeal outright, but that would have had implications for US ally Israel, which neither confirms nor denies its nuclear status, although it is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons.