Thursday, December 21, 2006

New Draft Sanctions Resolution + Increased Military Posturing in Persian Gulf

Today’s International Herald Tribune is reporting that the Europeans have “bended” to Russia on the United Nations Security Council resolution on Iran. According to the IHT, the latest revision of the sanctions resolution demanding that Iran immediately end all uranium enrichment activities eases a travel ban on people involved in Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. “Instead of directing countries to prevent entry of such people into their territory, it now ‘calls upon’ states to ‘exercise vigilance’ over those who cross their borders.”

The new resolution also “gives greater leeway to a monitoring committee that would be set up under the resolution; earlier drafts had more limits on how to determine what people and entities should be listed as suspected participants in nuclear activities and therefore subject to a freeze of their assets.” In addition, the new version of the resolution gives countries 60 days (previously it was 30) to report to the monitoring committee on how they are complying with the demands of the resolution.

The Europeans are calling for a vote on the new version of the resolution on Friday, December 23.

Meanwhile, according to newest reports in the New York Times, the US and Britain are moving additional warships and strike aircraft into the Persian Gulf to signal to Iran that while they are tied down in Iraq, both countries are still capable of military oversight of Iran. Pentagon and military officials said on December 20 that “Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was expected this week to approve a request by commanders for a second aircraft carrier and its supporting ships to be stationed within quick sailing distance of Iran by early next year.”

The US military officials said that increase of naval power in the Persian Gulf should not be viewed as preparations for any offensive strike against Iran, but they also acknowledged that the increased presence and ability to strike Iran is provocative.

According to the New York Times, “The aircraft carrier Eisenhower and its strike group — including three escort ships, an attack submarine and 6,500 sailors in all — entered the Persian Gulf on December 11, 2006 after a naval exercise to practice halting vessels suspected of smuggling nuclear materials in waters across the region. A carrier had not been inside the gulf since the Enterprise left in July, according to Pentagon officials. The next carrier scheduled to sail toward the Middle East is the Stennis, already set to depart Bremerton, Washington, for the region in late January.”

Meanwhile, the British Royal Navy plans to add two mine-hunting vessels to its ships that already are part of the international coalition patrolling waters in the Persian Gulf.

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