So the Point Is, Exactly?
So, if we already know that a UN resolution is going to be vetoed, why bother even drafting it?
The basic point of today's news is that a resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter is being prepared to try to manage the Iran nuclear crisis. This follows the IAEA's report to the UN Security Council that Iran is breaking its obligations on the enrichment of uranium - confirmed by Iran itself.
The relevant part of the chapter is Article 41:
The Security Council may decide what measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions, and it may call upon the Members of the United Nations to apply such measures. These may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations.
However, as we read in The Guardian (also below), China and Russia will both veto any decision on actual sanctions. So what's the point?
There basically is none, other than as a face-saving measure for the US (and most likely its special friend, the UK). As long as the appearance of going the UN is kept up, then the US can later say "well, the UN was ineffective, so we had to go it alone".
There is zero chance that military action will be authorised under Article 42, but we all know it's going to happen eventually. This is the beginning of the diplomatic process of preparing the ground for the recriminations that will come later.
US diplomat predicts tough Iran resolution
The US diplomat leading talks on Iran's nuclear programme today predicted European governments would propose a tough UN resolution that could allow the use of sanctions or force against Tehran.
Speaking prior to six nation talks on the issue in Paris, the US under-secretary of state, Nicholas Burns, said diplomacy was still the primary hope but that he expected France, Britain and Germany to propose a binding resolution under chapter seven of the UN charter.
The passage of a resolution that could allow sanctions is not guaranteed.
Earlier, a senior Iranian official claimed Russia and China had told Tehran they would reject such a resolution, and a senior Russian politician also said he expected this would be the case.
Officials from the permanent members of the UN security council - the US, the UK, France China and Russia - as well as Germany are meeting in the French capital to discuss how to respond to Tehran's refusal to stop uranium enrichment.
The foreign ministers of the six nations will then meet at the UN headquarters in New York next week to formally discuss the text of a US-backed European resolution, which is expected tomorrow.
"I think what we will see unfold is that European governments will put forward, following today's discussion, some form of chapter seven resolution, and we'll discuss the form of it," Mr Burns said.
A resolution under chapter seven of the UN charter makes any demands mandatory and allows for the use of sanctions and possibly force.
However, the Iranian foreign minister claimed Russia and China had officially told Tehran they would not support military action or sanctions.
Manouchehr Mottaki made the claim in an interview published in the conservative Iranian newspaper Kayhan today.
Asked how far Russia and China, would support Washington, he replied: "The thing these two countries have officially told us and expressed in diplomatic negotiations is their opposition to sanctions and military attacks.
"At the current juncture, I personally believe no sanctions or anything like that will be on the agenda of the security council."
In Moscow, Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the lower house of the Russian parliament's foreign affairs committee, said he believed Russia and China would reject a resolution that could lead to sanctions.
He told a Moscow radio station that he expected agreement on a softer resolution that could give Iran a deadline of one to three months to meet demands to stop uranium enrichment.
If that deadline expired without result, a new security council resolution would be required to impose sanctions on Iran, he said.
China and Russia - which have vetoes as permanent members of the security council - both have substantial energy interests in Iran, which is the world's fourth-biggest oil exporter.
In other developments today, the head of Iran's nuclear body, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, told an Iranian news agency that the country had enriched uranium to 4.8% but would not enrich above 5%, Reuters reported.
This would keep the enrichment work within the range used for nuclear power stations and far below the level needed to make nuclear bombs, which is 80% or more.
At the end of April, Tehran announced it had enriched uranium to more than 4%. Prior to that, it had told the UN nuclear watchdog that it had enriched to 3.6%, a level later confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Western diplomats have indicated they are looking at targeted sanctions which would be less sweeping than the economic and military embargoes the security council imposed on Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
"The general idea we have on Iran is more targeted sanctions aimed at specific individuals responsible for the nuclear programme, and the country's direction of the nuclear programme," the US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, said in a recent interview.
The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has made a series of defiant speeches on the nuclear issue.
Last week, Iran said it did not "give a damn" about a report from the UN nuclear watchdog that said Iran had done little to address international concerns about its nuclear research.