This week China and Russia unexpectedly dropped their opposition to a third set of U.N. sanctions on Iran for continuing its enrichment of uranium. Why did they do so? This could be a concerted effort to assist Tehran in its campaign to avoid Security Council involvement in its nuclear program. Unfortunately, the United States may be acquiescing in a course of action that will permit the “atomic ayatollahs” to keep their centrifuges.
Yesterday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov explained that the draft resolution does not contain “any harsh sanctions.” Instead, the draft, which has not yet been released, merely asks nations to be vigilant about transferring prohibited nuclear material. The terms of the new resolution, Lavrov explained, “will be enforced until the International Atomic Energy Agency’s concerns are resolved.”
This statement was certainly music to the ears of the mullahs. On the 12th of this month Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with, and lectured, Mohamed ElBaradei. “There is no justification for Iran’s nuclear dossier to remain at the U.N. Security Council,” Iran’s supreme leader told the head of the IAEA. At the same time Iran pledged to cooperate with ElBaradei’s agency and wrap up all remaining questions within weeks. In a sign of cooperation, Iran allowed ElBaradei and one of his chief deputies to walk around the site where it is developing its advanced P-2 centrifuge. Yesterday, Reuters reported that the IAEA was close to finishing its years-long inquiry on Iran.
Meanwhile, Condoleezza Rice, after failing to get Russia and China to agree to tougher sanctions, adopted a conciliatory tone and offered the prospect of better relations with Tehran. “We could work over time to build a new, more normal relationship—one defined not by fear and mistrust, but growing cooperation, expanding trade and exchange, and the peaceful management of our differences,” said the secretary of state, speaking from Davos yesterday. “This problem can and should be resolved through diplomacy.”
I admire her optimism. On the day she signaled compromise, both Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the country’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili ruled it out. Rice of course insisted that Iran stop enrichment, but the direction of her remarks revealed that the United States had given up confronting the intransigent Iranians.
So, it appears that the IAEA will certify that Iran is not trying to weaponize the atom, the Russians and Chinese will insist that the Security Council end its oversight of Iran, and the United States will meekly go along.