MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti international commentator Pyotr Goncharov)
The UN Security Council has guaranteed immunity to Iran for another 180 days at the initiative of the Iranian Six (five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) and with its full consensus.
Such unanimity is quite rare. What stands behind it, and what will come next?
The foreign ministers of the Six issued a statement emphasizing that they favor both tougher sanctions and an early negotiated solution of the Iranian nuclear problem. While supporting tougher sanctions, the statement reads: "We remain committed to an early negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue and reaffirm our commitment to a dual-track approach."
The statement has proved to be no less important than the Security Council resolution because contrary to the established opinion, the Iranian Six are not at all a negotiating mechanism. They are rather a tribunal investigating the Iranian nuclear file and passing a verdict of guilty or not guilty. The Security Council is playing the role of a jury, which only has to endorse a draft resolution proposed by the tribunal of the Six.
This time the Six was unanimous both on the carrot and stick, which is quite an achievement. Expressing serious concern over a possible military dimension of the Iranian nuclear program, the statement also notes the progress in Iran's cooperation with the UN nuclear monitor - the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). They emphasized that if Iran restores the world community's confidence in the peaceful character of its nuclear program, it will enjoy the same attitude as any other participant in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Security Council resolution #1803 is a third one in the last 14 months (the first one was adopted in late December 2006). The first two documents were adopted with an interval of three months, while the pause between the second and the current ones lasted for almost a year.
The resolution gives Tehran 90 days to comply with its demands. The demands are the same - Iran should stop all uranium-enrichment activities, including heavy water projects, and resume cooperation with the IAEA under the Additional Protocol.
Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin, currently the Chairman of the Security Council, has noted that the statement of the Six has new provisions that are giving Iran a chance to revise its position on the nuclear program. He emphasized that the new resolution is based on Article 41 of the UN Charter (ruling out the use of force), and provides for further sanctions exclusively within the same article in case Iran fails to comply with its demands.
In other words, in accordance with the established 90-day limit for the implementation of new requirements, Iran is guaranteed at least 180 days of easy life. It may have even more time, considering the last year's saga with a 90-day deadline.
Iran has made a dubious statement that the new resolution will primarily damage the interests of the European countries. However, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Britain account for more than 40% of Iran's trade, and the Iranian economy is more dependent on commercial ties with the European countries, not the other way round. Most likely, Iran would be the hardest hit.
But will the European governments manage to control compliance of their companies with the demand to freeze business contacts with Iran? There were precedents when French and German companies obviated their governments' decisions. Judging by everything, this time Europe (not without warning from the Unites States) is going to crackdown on the domestic violators of sanctions.
Obviously, urging Iran to take part in negotiations, the Six has given it enough time to ponder over all cons and pros. Recently President Ahmadinejad's nuclear policy has been subjected to increasing criticism at home despite his serious warnings to dissidents. Iran may face serious problems if the United States pressures European countries into unilateral tough sanctions against it (without a Security Council resolution, Russia and China). This is quite a realistic scenario. The only question is when it will be carried out.
Having insisted on mild sanctions against Iran, Russia has called on Tehran to thoroughly analyze the statement of the Six. This document makes it clear that Iran has not alleviated concerns over the military nature of its nuclear program. There is no guarantee that in 180 days, Moscow will have convincing arguments in favor of further talks with Iran.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.