Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni urged German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier Monday to support discussing the Iranian nuclear issue at the United Nations Security Council immediately, part of an Israeli diplomatic drive that could be characterized as "To the Security Council Now."
This push took on more urgency Monday amid reports that Teheran postponed talks with Moscow scheduled for Thursday on a plan to enrich its uranium in Russia, and that Teheran has already begun the small-scale enrichment of uranium.
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One Israel official following the Iranian issue closely said that time is running short, and that the diplomatic efforts to get Iran to stop its nuclear program were lagging behind Iranian technological advancements.
Israel, according to the official, would like to see the President of the Security Council, which this month is US Ambassador John Bolton, issue a presidential statement calling on the Iranians to suspend its enrichment-related activity, including research and development, and roll back its nuclear program.
The official said that Israel was worried that nothing had changed on the ground since the International Atomic Energy Agency reported Iran to the UN Security Council earlier this month. A Presidential statement, he said, could be the first step toward taking some concrete action against the Iranians.
As things stand now, however, the Presidential statement itself is unlikely to be made until after yet another IAEA meeting on March 6, which is due to issue a report on Iran.
Both Russia and China, permanent members of the Security Council who have veto power there, have pushed for the issue to be delayed until March, apparently in the hope that the Iranians would accept the Russian compromise to enrich the uranium in Russia - something that looks increasingly unlikely following Iran's decision Monday not to hold talks with Russia at this time.
While Israel has indicated it could live with the enrichment process taking place in Russia, as long as there are firm safeguards that would keep the Iranians from using either the fuel or the know-how for military purposes, the official said that there were some questions about what Russia meant when it said that there should be no uranium enrichment in Iran. While Israel and the US believe that this also means that there should be no research and development inside Iran, the Russian position on this matter is less clear.
The official said, however, that what is clear is that when the issue is raised by the Security Council, Moscow will not stand in the way of sanctions - even with the current cloud hanging over Israeli-Russian relations as a result of Russian President Vladimir Putin's invitation to Hamas to come to Moscow. The official said that China was also unlikely to veto sanctions in the Security Council.
Western diplomatic officials have said that if sanctions are agreed upon, there was a "rich menu" to choose from.
The menu can be divided into three stages.
The first stage, comprised of the least severe sanctions, includes the following:
Stopping IAEA technical assistance to Iran, which amounts to a few million dollars a year
Preventing Iranian scientists from participating in IAEA conferences
Preventing Iranian students from studying abroad any subject that could be related to Weapons of Mass Destruction development or dual-use technology that could be used for these purposes.
Level two of the sanctions menu includes:
Denying visas to Iranian scientists and the heads of the regime
Lowering the level of western diplomatic presence in Iran
Decreasing the number of Iranians allowed to serve at its embassies abroad
And the final level would involve economic sanctions, and could include the following:
Lowering Iran's credit rating
Placing an embargo on refined oil products entering Iran (Iran imports 40 % of its refined oil needs).
Western officials said that at the present time there is no international consensus for economic steps. "The task for the countries taking the lead on this issue," one official said, "is to reach agreement about the need to place the economic measures in the tool box."