Deal deepens the divide on Iran within Security Council

By signing in Tehran a nuclear swap deal with Brazil and Turkey, the Iranians have put the Americans and their European allies on the backfoot.

The agreement thrashed out late on Sunday night, following 18 hours of deliberations among the Foreign Ministers of Iran, Turkey and Brazil, has several major implications. Most importantly, it makes fresh sanctions against Iran extremely difficult, if not impossible to impose.

By committing themselves strongly against sanctions, Turkey and Brazil, both non-permanent members, have deepened the divide on Iran within the ranks of the United Nations Security Council. Following the conclusion of the deal, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, taking the lead from his Prime Minister, said the swap deal had demonstrated that “Tehran wants to open a constructive path... there is no more ground for new sanctions and pressures”.

The position adopted by Brazil was also on similar lines.

Among the veto wielding members of the Security Council, China has already shown its disinclination to impose sanctions, preferring diplomacy and dialogue. With Iran now demonstrating its flexibility by signing the deal, and dropping some of its earlier conditions, it is likely that Beijing would be further emboldened to press for a dialogue.

In the past few weeks, Russia's position on sanctions, compared to China, had been rather more ambiguous. Nevertheless, Russians did oppose “crippling sanctions” that would have badly hit Iran's ordinary citizenry. With the trilateral deal now in place, Moscow is bound to feel the pressure to diverge firmly from the confrontationist path the Americans and their European allies have so far been inclined to adopt.

For some of Iran's die-hard foes, the likely alternative to the pursuit of sanctions through the Security Council route would be to press for curbs against Iran by forging a “coalition of the willing”.

However, even that would be hard to achieve, now that the deal has been signed. Iran, under the terms of the trilateral agreement is ready to send to Turkey 1,200 kg of low-enriched Uranium. This is exactly the quantity of Uranium that the global powers had in their October 2009 meeting in Vienna calculated as sufficient to deprive Tehran of material to manufacture a bomb.

If transfer of 1,200 kg heightened the Western sense of security in October, how can its extraordinary sense of vulnerability be explained few months down the line?

Iran has now seized some of the initiative in its nuclear standoff with the West.

But the achievement is in equal measure, if not more, of Brazilian President Lula da Silva and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who after their Tehran intervention have acquired a more prominent niche on the global political stage.

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