Iran sanctions: prelude for a U.S. attack?

UNITED NATIONS — The Bush administration is taking a proposed new UN Security Council resolution for further sanctions on Iran as a green light for ratcheting up confrontation with Tehran. Many are concerned that the White House will use the new resolution as a justification for a military attack on Iran.

In a Dec. 23 resolution, the Security Council demanded that Iran stop all nuclear activity within 60 days. International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors reported Feb. 22 that Iran had not done so. This gave the U.S. and Britain a pretext to push the new resolution, which freezes assets of 28 Iranian nationals and organizations, including the state bank, and includes a ban on Iranian weapons exports. But agreement was reached only after concessions to key council members, notably China and Russia.

“The original elements initiated by the United States and Britain have been significantly watered down under the persistence of some members,” reported China’s official Xinhua news agency.

South Africa, current president of the 15-member Security Council, has expressed its desire to drop all sanctions from the resolution. South Africa’s objection scuttled adoption of a unanimous resolution, and will probably delay the vote by a week.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for a negotiated settlement, saying on March 17, “A significant part of the problem, just as with the Korean Peninsula problem, is related to the U.S. unwillingness to normalize its relations with Tehran on the basis of commonly accepted principles.”

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was scheduled to travel to the UN’s New York headquarters to address the council.

The U.S. has accused Iran of developing nuclear weapons, but Iran contends its nuclear program is only for civilian purposes, and thus complies with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Last month, the Bush administration, with little evidence, accused Iran of supplying new, powerful weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq, claiming the Iranian government was directly responsible for the death of about 170 American soldiers.

These allegations, the Tudeh (Communist) Party of Iran said in a February statement, could be used as a pretext to build public sentiment for a U.S. attack. “One could not help taking notice of the similarities” between the recently escalated fear-mongering rhetoric against Iran and the buildup to the Iraq war, the Tudeh Party said.

The U.S. peace movement, alarmed at apparent Bush administration plans to escalate the Iraq war into Iran, has taken up the call to stop any invasion of Iran before it starts. Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies, writing on the United for Peace and Justice web site, urged peace activists to call for a negotiated settlement and press Congress to block Bush from attacking Iran.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said last month that Congress needs to “make it very clear that there is no previous authority for the president, any president, to go into Iran.” Several resolutions have already been introduced in the House and Senate to do this.

While most see the war threat as stemming from the Bush administration, few consider Iran’s government to be innocent bystanders. The Tudeh Party argues that the current regime has been using the crisis to divert public attention from its unpopular domestic policies. The party said a U.S. attack on Iran could “benefit Iran’s president and tip the political scale in favor of totalitarians.”

“United efforts of our nation’s popular movement to build a democratic, progressive, and modern Iran can only proceed in an environment of peace in the region and the world,” the Tudeh Party concluded.

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