United Nations Security Council

Today the United Nations Security Council voted to impose a fourth round of sanctions on Iran which modestly raise the costs to Tehran for its continued nuclear defiance, but fall far short of the “crippling sanctions” promised by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last year. The sanctions resolution marginally reinforced a previous set of economic, military and high-technology sanctions against Iran and added new bans on Iranian investment in sensitive nuclear activities abroad, the sale of eight categories of heavy weapons to Iran and the establishment in U.N. member states of new branches of Iranian banks suspected of involvement in proliferation. The resolution also “calls upon” but does not “require” member states to conduct inspections of ships and airplanes suspected of carrying contraband to or from Iran.

The resolution was passed by a 12 to 2 vote with one abstention. As expected, Brazil and Turkey, which hatched a flawed nuclear deal with Iran last month, voted against sanctions. Lebanon, which increasingly has fallen under the shadow of Hezbollah, Iran’s terrorist surrogate, abstained.

Missing from the final draft of the resolution were any sanctions against Iran’s oil industry, whose revenues are crucial to the regime, or sanctions against Iran’s central bank, which U.S. officials maintain is involved in financing proliferation activities and terrorism. China and Russia succeeded in diluting the sanctions in protracted negotiations lasting more than five months.

The Obama Administration hopes to use the weak U.N. sanctions resolution as a means to leverage stronger sanctions from European Union countries and other interested parties outside the U.N. framework, free from the threat of a Russian or Chinese veto. European Union members are slated to meet on June 20 to discuss additional sanctions against Iran.

But the administration sends a mixed message by continuing to lobby Congress to dilute and postpone congressional sanctions against Iran. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a statement today lamenting the weakness of the Security Council resolution and calling for Congress to step up to the plate to impose its own sanctions:

This resolution, full of loopholes, will not stop Iran’s march towards nuclear weapons or influence the regime’s behavior in any way. That the U.S. put all our eggs in the UN basket – and got this goose-egg in return – is a disaster.

The bottom line: after more than a year of failed efforts to engage Iran and almost half a year of diplomatic wrangling with Russia and China, the Obama Administration has settled for a watered-down sanctions resolution that will do little to roll back Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. Today’s Security Council vote does not rise to the level of “crippling sanctions” or even the “sanctions that bite” that Secretary of State Clinton promised in March. Call them “nibbling sanctions.”