Iran, whose regional policies face a setback from the difficulties of its Arab ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has powerful defenders in the form of Russia, which has built Iran a reactor, and China. Both permanent U.N. Security Council members argue that Western sanctions are counter-productive.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, classifying the EU embargo among "aggravating factors", said Moscow believed there was a good chance that talks between six global powers and Iran could resume soon and that Russia would try to steer both Iran and the West away from further confrontation.
His ministry issued an official statement expressing "regret and alarm": "What is happening here is open pressure and diktat, an attempt to 'punish' Iran for its intractable behaviour.
"This is a deeply mistaken approach, as we have told our European partners more than once. Under such pressure Iran will not agree to any concessions or any changes in its policy."
But that argument cuts no ice with the U.S. administration, for which Iran - and Israel's stated willingness to consider unilateral military action against it - is a major challenge as Obama campaigns for re-election against Republican opponents who say he has been too soft on Tehran.