The latest proposed sanctions resolution circulated by the United States target Iran's defense requirements, enabling further arms restrictions on the Islamic Republic. Excerpts:
8. Decides that all States shall prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to Iran, from or through their territories or by their nationals or individuals subject to their jurisdiction, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in their territories, of any battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles or missile systems as defined for the purpose of the United Nations Register on Conventional arms, or related materiel, including spare parts, or items as determined by the Security Councilor the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1737 (2006) ("the Committee"), decides further that all States shall prevent the provision to Iran by their nationals or from or through their territories of technical training, financial resources or services, advice, other services or assistance related to the supply, sale, transfer, provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of such arms and related materiel, and calls upon all States to exercise vigilance and restraint over the supply, sale, transfer, provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of all other arms and related materiel;
9. Decides that Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology, and that States shall take all necessary measures to prevent the transfer of technology or technical assistance to Iran related to such activities;
It should be pointed out that as was the case in the preceding round of sanctions, how these potential new sanctions are implemented is a main source of concern, as they represent a potential point of contact or flash point for open hostilities between the US and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Last time around, a number of US Navy observers speculated that a literal reading of the sanctions resolution empowered the US to stop Iran related ships. It didn't happen on any significant scale. Whether or not it will happen with this coming round is again, at this point, an unanswered question.
Another concern is the focus on Iran's missile systems. Missiles are the cornerstone of Iran's defense, which is based on deterrence. Take away that means of deterrence from attack, and Iran is pretty much as vulnerable as Iraq was in 2003. Now, there are several types of missiles Iran depends on. There are the anti-Ship variety, some of which Iran assembles from Chinese sources. There are the anti-Aircraft variety, of which Iran has recently purchased the S-300 but Russia is stalling its delivery (under the sanctions, they will be non-deliverable). And most importantly, there are the short range (SRBM) and medium range (MRBM) ballistic missiles, which provide the main deterrent force to Iran's defense. Once again, it's open to interpretation, but the sanctions prohibit construction and test use of "nuclear capable" missiles. There's the potential for the US to consider the Shahab and Sejil type MRBMs "nuclear capable".
Sejil-2 medium range ballistic missile
Also potentially included are Iran's space launch vehicles (SLVs), such as the previous Safir series, but more importantly the upcoming Simorgh type (which some observers accuse Iran of a dual-use technology effort toward an ICBM or more efficient nuclear capable MRBM). Keep in mind, that using the so-called nuclear "alleged studies" as a justification, the US (and Israel) are already seeking classified information regarding Iran's MRBM reentry/warhead design, which would enable their efforts to undermine this element of Iran's defense. This is one of the reasons Iran has pushed back on this particular IAEA request. These elements of the newly proposed sanctions further empower these efforts at compromising vital aspects of Iran's military defenses.
Simorgh space launch vehicle
Again, it's all in the implementation, as Iran isn't going to suspend its missile defense or space launch efforts. As such, these potential new sanctions certainly represent 1) an escalation of confrontation, 2) inescapable confrontational events in the future (such as MRBM test launches and SLV launches) and 3) the potential for points of actual conflict, particularly at sea.
There is the interpretation that these elements of the proposed sanctions package have a lot less to do with nuclear weapons proliferation, and a lot more to do with pursuing other objectives related to Israeli military threats against Iran. Note that in previous sanctions attached to the Islamic Republic, an arms export ban was instituted in an effort to prevent Iran from contributing to the defense needs of allies such as Lebanon, Hezbollah and Hamas.