Home US & World News NEWS & ANALYSIS: EU agrees on new sanctions against Iran but military action unlikely

NEWS & ANALYSIS: EU agrees on new sanctions against Iran but military action unlikely

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Reuters reported that on Tuesday E.U. governments have reached agreement on new sanctions against some 200 "people and entities" that will be approved on at a meeting of E.U. foreign ministers on Dec. 1.[1]  --  In addition, France is pushing for “sanctions on Iran's oil exports and central bank,” Reuters said in another article.[2]  --  Iranian Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani called Europe’s approach “unprofessional and politically motivated” and said that “Nothing new had happened in Iran’s nuclear program which could lead the E.U. to approve such a resolution,” the Tehran Times reported.[3]  --  A Reuters analysis posted Tuesday noted that “experts say there was nothing in the IAEA report that makes military action more likely” and judged that “Tehran has yet to cross the red lines that would prompt Israel or the United States to contemplate military action.”[4]  --  “If anything,” in fact, Peter Graff said, “it points to the limits of the effectiveness of a military campaign, which would have to be weighed against the risk of starting a potentially catastrophic regional war.” ...



November 22, 2011


European Union governments agreed in principle on Tuesday to extend sanctions against Iran by adding some 200 names to a target list of people and entities in an effort to add pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program, diplomats said.

The decision will be formally approved at a meeting of E.U. foreign ministers on Dec. 1, they said.

"The silent procedure went through, it's done," said one E.U. diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.  He was referring to a procedure that allows E.U. governments to reach agreements on various policies.

European companies will be banned from doing business with the listed firms and organizations, while officials will be subject to asset freezes and visa bans.

E.U. diplomats can, in theory, tweak the target list during further discussions in the coming days, and the final list of names will be made public after the formal approval.

In addition to extending the sanctions list, E.U. governments are also expected to discuss proposals by France and Britain for further sanctions, such as targeting the Iranian central bank. France also wants to target the oil industry.

If agreed, such moves could also be formally approved next week, diplomats have said.

France said on Tuesday it was pushing hard to persuade its EU counterparts to move quickly on its proposal.

On Monday, the United States, Britain, and Canada announced new measures against Iran's energy and financial sectors, in response to a Nov. 8 International Atomic Energy Agency report that presented intelligence suggesting Iran had worked on designing an atomic bomb.

(Reporting by Julien Toyer and Luke Baker; Writing by Justyna Pawlak; Editing by Jon Hemming)



November 22, 2011


PARIS -- France said on Tuesday it was pushing hard to convince allies to impose sanctions on Iran's oil exports and central bank, despite concerns among other Western governments that such moves could hurt the world economy as well as Tehran.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero would not say whether France, which has increased its own imports of Iranian oil this year, would freeze those imports unilaterally.

He said he did not expect that Paris would fail to convince others to join it in stopping oil imports and freezing Iranian central bank assets -- though some argue such action would drive up global oil prices and so hurt Western economies.



Tehran Times

November 22, 2011


TEHRAN -- Iranian Majlis speaker Ali Larijani says the Islamic Republic will definitely revise its relations with the European Union in response to the E.U.’s unprofessional and politically motivated approach toward Iran’s nuclear program.
Larijani made the remarks after an open session of the Majlis on Tuesday in reference to the recent resolution issued by the E.U. against the Islamic Republic of Iran. 

“The European Union should not suppose that its measure will remain without response,” he said, adding, “Attitudes of Britain and the United States (toward Iran) stem from a kind of backwardness.  

“Nothing new had happened in Iran’s nuclear program which could lead the E.U. to approve such a resolution.”

Therefore, one should seek a true reason lying behind the move, he said.    

“The main reason for issuing the resolution is regional developments.  Dictators who were subservient to the West collapsed one by one, thus Britain and the U.S. resorted to a ‘political willfulness.’”

He went on to say that the West and particularly the U.S. believe that the Islamic Revolution has a pivotal role in the region and conveys messages which can bring about the fall of the puppet dictators.

He also said that the E.U.’S recent move to some extent relates to its efforts to sway the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations Security Council, which were not that successful.

But the IAEA did not issue a forceful resolution, he added.




By Peter Graff

November 22, 2011


Iran's nuclear standoff with the West has led to much harsher words and new economic sanctions, but Tehran has yet to cross the red lines that would prompt Israel or the United States to contemplate military action.

A report by the U.N. watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency this month suggested that Iran has pursued the capability to develop nuclear weapons.

That has provided new impetus for Western efforts to isolate Iran on the diplomatic stage and formed the basis for a wave of sanctions restricting banks from doing business there.

Some media coverage has suggested a new Middle East war could be coming, if the leadership of Israel decides that it cannot tolerate a nuclear bomb in the hands of a state committed to its destruction.

Over the long-term, most experts hedge their bets rather than make firm predictions about such a volatile region.

But for now at least, experts say there was nothing in the IAEA report that makes military action more likely.  If anything, it points to the limits of the effectiveness of a military campaign, which would have to be weighed against the risk of starting a potentially catastrophic regional war.

The report was mainly based on information already known [sic] to Western intelligence agencies.  It did not reveal the sort of new evidence of immediate danger that would lead Israel or the United States to take a decision now about whether they can live with an Iranian atomic bomb or must take urgent military action to prevent it.

Instead, Western states are likely to stick to diplomacy and economic measures, while keeping a vigilant eye out for as-yet-untaken steps -- such as expelling international monitors or diverting nuclear material from known sites -- that might show Iran was embarking on an all-out bid to build a bomb.

"The route that continues to be taken and favored by the international community when dealing with Iran is very much one of applying pressure and a desire to return to the negotiating table," said Marie Bos, Middle East analyst for Control Risks Group, a consultancy firm.

"We still feel at this stage that the scenario of a military strike remains an unlikely one."


The IAEA report, like earlier U.S. intelligence estimates, suggested Iran had been pursuing the science needed to make an atomic bomb at least until 2003.

But that interest mostly took the form of research, rather than building actual bomb-making infrastructure.

Experts refer to that knowledge as a "nuclear intangible," and you can't destroy it by air strikes, said Andrea Berger of Britain's Royal United Services Institute:  "Because it would be a nuclear intangible, it's something that can't be rectified with a military strike."

The West's main concern of late about actual activity on the ground in Iran has been its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity, a level which Western states say is more than it needs for peaceful nuclear power.

But 20 percent pure uranium is still not pure enough to make a bomb.  The enrichment is taking place at sites that are known and monitored, and the IAEA says it has not seen material being diverted.

It would take another event -- a decision by Iran to expel inspectors, the emergence of evidence of other undeclared nuclear sites, or the diversion of material from existing sites -- to raise the enrichment from a worry to an immediate threat.

"We know what's going on in (the monitored sites) now, and what's going on in them now is not indicative of an Iran that's racing toward a nuclear weapon," said Berger.

"There might be something that would compel a change in thinking on the military option, but right now it doesn't have much utility.  So other options might be better."


For the long term, Western countries have still not exhausted the economic weapons in their arsenal.

Blocking international access to Iran's central bank could theoretically bring a halt to its huge oil trade, but that could cause a global supply shortage with far-reaching consequences.

"There's still a possibility of formally sanctioning the Iranian central bank.  We can expect that it would significantly hamper Iran's ability to trade internationally, including on the oil and gas market, and it could have an impact on oil and gas prices," said Bos of Control Risks.

The toughest economic measures would require support from the U.N. Security Council, which would mean persuading veto-wielders Russia and China that the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon is serious enough for the world to pay a serious price.

Israel or the United States also have other options to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program besides air strikes, such as sabotage and cyber warfare.

The Stuxnet computer virus that hit Iranian nuclear equipment last year may have been a deliberate cyber attack.

A massive explosion hit a military base near Tehran this month, killing 17 troops including the head of the Revolutionary Guards missile program.  Iran says it was caused by an accident, but it inevitably raised suspicion of sabotage.

For the future, Israel and the United States are unlikely ever to take the option of military strikes off the table as a way of applying pressure.

For it to be a credible threat, Tehran has to believe they are serious.  But the effects of an attack would be dire.

"The idea that the state of Israel is able to mount any kind of attack with its air force and its missiles against Iran's nuclear program and have any chance of pulling it off and destroying the whole thing, is very unlikely," said Tim Ripley, a British defense analyst.

"And once they do that they would start a very big war which would drag in almost every Middle East country and the United States," he said, adding that for now, Washington has been holding its Israeli allies back.

"Up until now, President Bush and President Obama have said don't do it.  That's been documented," he said.  "This is the multi-billion dollar question:  are the Israelis misguided and impulsive enough not to ask the Americans for permission?"

(Editing by Jon Boyle)


Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 November 2011 19:17  

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