The U.N. Security Council finally agreed Wednesday to do something about Iran's nuclear program. Tehran was given 30 days to comply with U.N. inspectors at the International Atomic Energy Agency and to suspend uranium enrichment activities or face as yet unspecified consequences. The "Presidential statement," which followed several weeks of intense diplomatic wrangling, omitted tougher phrasing, opposed by Russia and China, that would have spelled out more clearly the consequences of failing to comply, but which Russia and China feared would lead to a dangerous escalation in the standoff. The statement received the full backing of the U.S. and the world's other big powers at a meeting in Berlin on Thursday. "Iran must decide between a self-imposed isolation through its continuation of enrichment or a return to the negotiating table," German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeir told reporters.
A senior European diplomat, in an interview with TIME, defended the incremental approach to getting Iran back to the negotiating table. The European-led strategy, according to the diplomat, is to "incrementally increase pressure on Iran in order to make it understand [how] to find a diplomatic solution." The aim, he said, is not to "punish" Tehran for failing to comply fully with previous requests; instead, "the Security Council is a political tool to make Iran understand that the price is too high to continue in the direction that it has been going." The plan is to move deliberately and incrementally, to convince Iran that the process works and to demonstrate that there are positive and negative consequences to any course of action. "I hope that there is enough reason on Iran's side to see that this is the way forward," he said.
Europe for now is not considering military force or even economic sanctions as a potential solution, the diplomat said, but agrees that concerted pressure from all the big powers is necessary if Iran is going to be persuaded to re-suspend its efforts to enrich uranium and resume talks. "None of these problems will be solved by force," he said. "There must be a relationship between instruments we use and added value we offer." Incentives could include security guarantees, he said, and will probably require some kind of dialogue with the U.S., the diplomat said. But he acknowledged there are differences about how to exert diplomatic pressure. Russia, China the U.S. and Europe have yet to agree on "who is in the driver's seat"the International Energy Agency in Vienna or the Security Council in New York. "It's a division of labor," said the diplomat, "but that balance still has to be calibrated and adjusted, and that is what is happening now. The question is what kinds of pressure you are going to use."