On Wednesday, 3rd of February, Iran launched a rocket into space, violating international law. Iran now faces the threat of new sanctions from the US and others. The incident has also increased diplomatic tensions between countries that disagree how to engage Iran, especially the US and China.
The domestically-produced Kavoshgar-3 rocket was equipped with a satellite carrying a mouse, worms and two turtles. Broadcasted live yesterday by state-run television programs, the event culminated with the unveiling of three Iranian satellites during a ceremony attended by Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The act was described as “provocative” by White House spokesman Bill Burton, amidst rising concerns among Western powers that the same technology used in the launch could be harnessed to build long-range nuclear weapons. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki however, claims that “Iran does not seek to produce nuclear weapons” and instead is pursuing the nuclear technology for energy purposes.
Iran is now faced with threats of “severe sanctions” by the UN Security Council, the United States and other countries due to its suspected nuclear weapons programs. In a bid to target Iran’s petrol supply, the sanctions would be aimed towards non-Iranian firms that operate in the energy sector or aid Iran in any way with the production or import of refined oil products. Another Western power, Australia, has also followed suit by blocking several export shipments to Iran under suspicion of being used for its nuclear weapons program. In conjunction with UN efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear weapon program, Australia has also imposed trade sanctions on Iran. Furthermore, the US has rallied other Western powers such as Britain, France and Germany to compel the UN Security Council to pressurize Iran to abandon their nuclear program.
In contrast China, which relies on Iran as its third largest source of crude oil, is unwilling to sign on to harsher penalties against Iran and has utilized its position on the UN Security Council to veto such resolutions. China’s actions come despite warnings from US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton that China would be faced with diplomatic isolation and economic insecurity if it did not support the new sanctions against Iran. Russia another permanent member of the UN Security Council has supported China in calling for patience in their dealings with Iran and preventing harsher regulations against Iran. Malaysia has also expressed support for Iran’s right to utilize nuclear energy for civilian purposes and has refused to vote for an agreement seeking Iran to discontinue its nuclear power program. In the past both Malaysia and Hong Kong have served as hubs for “middlemen and re-export” when the United Arab Emirates increased export controls in 2007 on Iranian companies that tried to procure nuclear and weapons technology.
The inconsistency in the opinions of nations demonstrates the lack of unity on the new penalties, which some analysts say may render them as ineffective. The near-universal compliance of the sanctions is necessary for them to be successful, so that if “some countries and companies step out of doing business with Iran, others don’t fill the gap”, states Michael Jacobson, former Treasury Department terrorism-finance advisor.
Bloomberg, “Tough Sanctions May Not Persuade Iran to Quit Nuclear Program”, January 12, 2010, http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-01-12/tough-sanctions-may-not-persuade-iran-to-quit-nuclear-program.html
Guardian, “Iran rocket launch opens can of worms in space race with west”, February 3, 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/feb/03/iran-launches-rocket-carrying-animals
Reuters, “Government calls Iran rocket launch “provocative act””, February 3, 2010, http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6124QW20100203?type=politicsNews
The New York Times, “Clinton Warns China on Iran Sanctions”, January 29, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/30/world/asia/30diplo.html
The Straits Times, “Aussie blocks shipments to Iran”, February 4, 2010, http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/World/Story/STIStory_486234.html
TODAY, “Iran test-fires new rocket”, February 4, 2010, http://www.todayonline.com/World/EDC100204-0000124/Iran-test-fires-new-rocket
Press TV, “West slammed for misuse of Iran nuclear drive”, January 9, 2010 http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=115735§ionid=351020104
Press TV, “Despite US Pressure, China favors talks on Iran”, February 3, 2010, http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=117784§ionid=351020104