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How’s That Diplomacy Working, Mr. President?

Today wasn’t a good day for the Obama administration’s plan to isolate Iran by appeasing that rogue regime’s two main protectors: Russia and China.

China once again demonstrated that it was not even entertaining the notion of supporting sanctions against Iran when its Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said he opposed any talk of pressure on Tehran since it would block chances of a diplomatic settlement of the impasse over Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. The Iranians have made it clear over and over again that there is no possibility of such a settlement. Which means that the Chinese are merely backing Iran’s strategy of stalling Western diplomats until their nuclear capability is a fait accompli.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that Iran has received more assurances from Russia that it still intends to deliver long-range air-defense missiles to Tehran. Both the United States and Israel — the likely first target of any Iranian nuclear device — have expended considerable energy on trying to stop the Russians from augmenting Iran’s air-defense system. This is a particularly irresponsible move on Russia’s part. The more secure Iran feels about its ability to defend itself against potential U.S. or Israeli attacks aimed at either forestalling or destroying its nuclear project, the more dangerous it becomes.

Taken together, these two developments illustrate the fact that Obama has wasted a full year pursuing a diplomatic-engagement scheme that never had a chance of success. The idea that you could win Moscow’s heart by betraying the Czech Republic and Poland (over missile defense) or woo China by demonstrating weakness on human rights and trade issues only convinced those countries that Obama’s main characteristic as a leader was neither charisma nor eloquence but rather weakness. The notion that Obama, whose stock is falling not only in the United States but also abroad, can rally either the United Nations (where China and Russia can veto sanctions) or Europe to take serious action on Iran is a White House fantasy.

There is a cottage industry of apologists both for Iran and for the Obama administration’s engagement policy with Tehran, whose main line of argument is that Iranian nukes are no big deal and that both the West and Israel will have to learn to live with them. That fits in nicely with a White House mindset that prefers to obsess over the administration’s faltering domestic agenda rather than deal with a perilous threat to international peace. But the longer Obama waits before attempting to do something about Iran, the more serious the consequences will be. The clock is ticking toward the day when a triumphant Iran will be able to announce that its nuclear dreams have become a reality. As much as this administration’s fate seems to be riding on the economy and failed projects like its hopes for a government takeover of health care, Iran, the issue they prefer would go away, may turn out to be the greatest danger to Obama’s legacy.



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