Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki’s visit to Ireland, scheduled for Wednesday, raised both eyebrows and ire in Jerusalem a day earlier, with Israeli officials saying the Irish were being used to create the perception that Teheran had not been internationally isolated.
Mottaki’s visit comes the day the UN Security Council – after months of anticipation – was expected to pass a fourth round of sanctions against Iran for continuing to enrich uranium, and hard on the heels of an attempt by an Irish-flagged vessel to break the blockade of Gaza over the weekend.
The UN Security Council sanctions resolution, a draft reached after months of negotiations, expands a limited arms embargo against Iran, adds more measures against the Revolutionary Guard, toughens shipping inspections and adds financial restrictions.
While falling far short of the “crippling” sanctions against the country’s energy sector that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had been calling for, the proposed measures were still being viewed as significant because they would provide both a legal and a moral base for further, wider sanctions by both the US and the EU.
Once these sanctions are passed, one official explained, the atmosphere will be more conducive to unilateral EU and US sanctions.
The long-awaited sanctions against Iran are expected to get the Security Council’s nod on Wednesday, and if not on Wednesday – because of wrangling within the council – then by the end of the week. Nine of its 15 members need to vote in favor of the sanctions for the resolution to pass; it is expected to garner 12 votes, including those of the five permanent members.
Turkey, Brazil and Lebanon are expected to oppose the measure.
During closed-door consultations on Tuesday morning, diplomats from Turkey and Brazil called for a second meeting in the afternoon to debate the resolution before the entire UN membership. The full General Assembly will be allowed into the Security Council chambers to observe the debate, but will not participate.
Still, some said the second debate was an act of theater ahead of Wednesday’s vote.
Council diplomats said they were confident they had the votes to secure a fourth round of sanctions.
“We’re passing a strong resolution tomorrow,” a council diplomat told The Jerusalem Post
. The second meeting, the diplomat said, “has no effect on what we’re doing tomorrow.” During a visit to London, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters he expected a resolution would “be passed very soon."
“The faster it can be passed, the better,” Gates said. “The clock is ticking.”
Officials in Jerusalem said that to a certain extent the Iranians were looking beyond the UN vote, and now concentrating on keeping the EU from imposing even more stringent sanctions.
“They are focusing on what they consider to be the weakest links inside the EU,” one government source said. “They have courted the Greeks, and now are going after the Irish.”
The official said Mottaki was recently in Austria, and last week met in Brussels with the EU Parliament, at a meeting in which he received a very cool reception. Later he held separate meetings with the foreign ministers of Belgium and Luxembourg
This was all part of a three-pronged Iranian effort to fend off international pressure, the source said.
The first prong has been Africa, where senior Iranian officials have exerted a lot of effort trying to get the three African countries currently on the Security Council – Gabon, Nigeria and Uganda – to vote against sanctions.
The second prong has been Latin America – Mottaki was in Mexico last week, and this month the country holds the Security Council presidency.
The third prong is to look beyond the UN sanctions at steps Europe may take afterward, trying to get the EU to back down.
“The Iranians,” the government official said, “are trying to throw a monkey wrench into possible EU sanctions, and Teheran is targeting what they have identified as the weak links in the European chain.” Israeli officials said the Iranians were using the Irish, and that Mottaki’s visit there sent exactly the wrong message at a time Teheran when needed to feel that the international community, especially Europe, was united in opposition to its policies.
The Iranians care about the photo-op in Dublin, the official said, and
the perception this created that they were not isolated in the world.
The official said that the Irish “naively” believed in open channels of
communication with the Iranians and that this could convince them to
halt their nuclear development.
A spokesman at the Irish Embassy in Tel Aviv said that Mottaki was on a
private visit to Ireland, and had asked for a meeting with Irish Foreign
Minister Micheal Martin.
“He requested a meeting, and his request will be accommodated.
There will be an extensive agenda for discussion, and we will make clear
our views to them,” he said.
Mottaki was invited by the Glencree Center for Peace and Reconciliation,
an Irish NGO “devoted to peace building and reconciliation” in Ireland
“and beyond.” Ireland has been characterized as “inside the EU
mainstream” regarding its position on Iran’s nuclear program and