Iran sanctions threat faces tough going

KAI RYSSDAL: As so often happens in international diplomacy, what you think is the truth isn't. The United Nations has been threatening economic sanctions against Iran if it doesn't stop its uranium enrichment program. Earlier this week Tehran declined to do that. And the assumption had been the Security Council would vote for sanctions fairly quickly. Until today, that is. Marketplace's Hillary Wicai explains.


HILLARY WICAI: Russia is a trade partner with Iran. And as expected, Russia isn't going along with the UN resolution that threatens sanctions. Michael O'Hanlon with the Brookings Institution says Russia is a little too familiar with Uncle Sam's heavy hand.
MICHAEL O'HANLON:"Russia doesn't like the idea of Washington being able to use sanctions as an aggressive instrument of coercive diplomacy. So on that broader matter of principle, Russia is not all that enthusiastic."

Here's the irony: Russia could be the immediate beneficiary economically if the UN Security Council imposed strong sanctions against Iran. As an exporter of oil it would stand to benefit in the short term if Iran's oil is reduced.

Still the US is now left having to sell some narrowly targeted sanctions. Cliff Kupchan with the Eurasia Group says it's a delicate dance finding something light enough that's acceptable for the Russians and serious enough to have some impact in Tehran.

CLIFF KUPCHAN:"You do that slowly and by realistically appraising the achievable. The achievable is almost certainly limited to leadership travel bans, to limited asset freezes and to a ban on dual use items, those being items that can be used for either civilian or military purposes."

The deadline remains the same. The UN Security Council resolution gives Iran until the end of the month to suspend its nuclear enrichment program. The European Union says it expects new talks with Iran in days to clarify questions about Iran's response.

In Washington, I'm Hillary Wicai for Marketplace.

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