Israel's Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Amir Peretz met with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss Iran's nuclear program. Livni later said that the world must impose tougher sanctions on Iran because of its public promise of destroying Israel and denying the horrors of the Holocaust. She said that such an antagonistic policy endangers her nation and Arab neighbors.
While the text of the new resolution has not been released, leaked reports talk of asking member states to exercise "vigilance and restraint" on arms imports and on the entry or transit through their territory of Iranians subject to the asset freeze. It would also require member-states not to make new commitments of "grants, financial assistance, or confessional loans" to Iran. Of course, Western nations will prefer harsher sanctions but Russia and China, with large commercial and military ties with Tehran, have been reluctant to oblige. China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya has already said that he was not happy with the additional Iranians and entities that will face travel bans but concedes that "to reach agreement" there "has to be a package."
There are signs that Ahmadinejad may be losing support for him at home. Recent elections saw his candidates being routed and this has been attributed to weakening economic conditions, unemployment, high inflation, and domestic violence springing from disagreements with Azeri population in the north. Many feel that such conditions are due to gross neglect of the oil and natural gas producing infrastructure and the hostility with the West is stopping investment from coming through. The theory goes that because of the lack of investment and economic progress, people feel that Ahmadinejad is responsible for their poor economic condition and they voted his candidates out.
Tehran continues to be defiant and taking more and more hostile positions against the impression of the world community. A recently released 50,000 Rial note has an image of an atom surrounded by a field of electrons over the map of Iran. Released just before the Persian New Year, the note which was meant to excite the people and rally support for the nuclear program has instead created worry and anger. The value of the Iranian Rial has plummeted with this 50,000 note valued at USD 5.40 and independent economists say that such large denomination notes merely confirms world view of runaway inflation.
As Iran struggled economically, politically, and diplomatically, talks of a military solution has been hushed and does not look imminent. The U.S. is simply incapable of assuming a more versatile and capable enemy than the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq. Stretched as it is at home, abandoned by most allies in Europe, and facing increasingly hostile domestic political pressure, the George Bush Administration has little recourse to adopt halted steps towards getting Tehran to comply.
The question is whether these sanctions will really stop Iran from its nuclear goals or merely slow the pace. If the Pyongyang negotiation is any indication, the U.S. will likely like to throw money at the problem and hope the Iranian issue will disappear. However, Iran's economy is not where the North Korean economy is at. At the same time, Iran is also isolated in the Islamic world and is increasingly looking to gain support from other U.S. haters such as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuban strong man Fidel Castro. Nor does it have a benefactor as North Korea does that can stop harsher sanctions or facilitate a diplomatic and negotiated settlement out.
The increasingly evident stalemate can only be broken if one of two things happen. One scenario is that the U.S. and the West achieve military successes in Iraq or Afghanistan and reach consensus on military option on Iran-an option that is extremely unlikely. The other scenario is one where Iran's economy worsens substantially that forces domestic pressure to remove Ahmadinejad and his hard-line coterie from power and creating a space for a negotiated settlement. The West seems to be going for the second option which all told may be better for the world. The sooner Ahmadinejad sees this outcome the better it is for Iran and the world.