WASHINGTON – The announcement and confirmation Friday that Iran has constructed a secret underground plant to enrich uranium raises the prospects that the United Nations Security Council will propose new international sanctions in an attempt to derail Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The U.S. and its allies Friday gave Iran two months to comply with international demands to come clean on its expanding nuclear program or face broader international sanctions, perhaps even targeting the country’s gasoline imports.
Experts don’t expect Iran to change course, making it likely that President Barack Obama will have to convince other nations to do as the U.S. and adopt financial sanctions.
“The United States is doing that, some of the other countries are doing it, but it is not universal,” said Gary Sick, an Iran expert at Columbia University in New York and a former staff member of the National Security Council.
The U.S. has sanctioned more than 40 Iranian entities, including state-owned banks and construction companies. These sanctions have lacked a global buy-in, but that could change.
“There are some things that could give us some immediate success and traction. I think what people are hoping is that it’s going to animate partners to sign on to these things,” said Matthew Levitt, a former deputy assistant Treasury secretary for intelligence who helped craft past sanctions on Iran.
These measures include having a number of allies adopt the sanctions to isolate Iranian banks already imposed by the U.S.; trying to isolate the Central Bank of Iran; and creating an inspection regime for ports of call visited by Iran’s shipping line, known by its acronym IRISL.
“We’re going to have to do a lot of different things, at a lot of different enforcement levels,” said Levitt, noting that sanctions can put “significant pressure on a regime already facing tremendous domestic political challenges.”
Iran imports about 40 percent of its gasoline, much of it from Europe and increasingly from China.