The United States, Britain and France have introduced a resolution in the UN Security Council that could lead to sanctions against Iran. The proposed resolution repeats a call for Tehran to freeze its uranium enrichment programs and says "further measures" may be necessary to ensure compliance (Bloomberg). The move launches what is expected to be a drawn-out diplomatic process designed to win approval for tough measures from Russia and China, veto-holding Council members which have rejected moves toward sanctioning Iran (BBC). If the Council, or a "coalition of the willing" outside the UN, adopts sanctions against Iran, they could be damaging to the Iranian economy if properly targeted, explains this new Background Q&A by cfr.org's Lionel Beehner.
Amid the UN talks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington to discuss the crisis. But while the United States and the so-called EU-3 continue to stress unity in confronting Iran, Merkel is expected to press Bush on opening a direct dialogue with Iranian officials, says William Drozdiak, president of the American Council on Germany, in an interview with cfr.org’s Bernard Gwertzman.
The latest diplomacy comes after Iran rejected a Council statement urging it to suspend its nuclear activities by April 28. The International Atomic Energy Agency then delivered a critical report to the Council expressing concern about ongoing "gaps in knowledge" about Iran's activities, which Western states are worried is cover for a nuclear bomb-making program. Tehran restarted its program, which it now claims is "irreversible," after a breakdown in negotiations with the EU-3, prompting the Security Council to take up the matter. The Iranian leadership appears unfazed by the prospect of international action, CFR Fellow Michael Levi, just back from Iran, tells Gwertzman.
Iranian officials assert their nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes and fall within the limits set by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. But they continue to press ahead with plans to enrich uranium at an industrial level. In addition to its first cascade of 164 centrifuges at Natanz, Iran has reportedly begun work on a second and third cascade. David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, tells RFE/RL he is concerned that Iranian officials will start to withhold even more information from IAEA inspectors about their nuclear activities. This is bound to fuel alarm in Washington, Albright says, because U.S. officials often "believe worst-case estimates as facts" and "may start to think that Iran has more than it actually does." Bush said on April 28 he wanted to resolve the crisis "diplomatically and peacefully."