Commentary Magazine


Topic: Qin Gang

China Announcement Means More Stalling on Iran

Yesterday’s announcement that China had agreed to enter talks about the language of a new United Nations resolution about Iran’s nuclear program was hyped by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as evidence that all five Security Council members were “unified” on the issue. Of course, even Clinton conceded that this meant that there would be “a great deal of further consultation” in the weeks and months ahead.

But even before President Obama’s foreign-policy cheering section had a chance to get excited about this supposed breakthrough, the Chinese poured cold water on the president’s expectation that sanctions would happen soon. Today, the New York Times reports that it appears China’s position hasn’t moved at all: “Qin Gang, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, appeared to steer clear from any commitment for sanctions. ‘On the Iranian nuclear issue, China will continue to endeavor toward a peaceful resolution,’ he said during a regular news conference on Thursday, emphasizing that the crisis should be resolved by ‘diplomatic means.’ ”

If this sounds remarkably similar to what China has said before in a series of statements on Iran in the last year, it’s not an accident. This is pretty much what they have been saying all along as they refused to countenance Iranian sanctions that either “bite” or are “crippling,” to use the words Clinton has employed to describe what the United States desires.

So let’s recap the past 15 months of American diplomacy on Iran. After several months of fruitless attempts to “engage” Iran to get them to play nice, the Obama administration set several deadlines that ultimately turned out to be Jan. 1, 2010, for the Iranians to respond. Of course, the Iranians didn’t respond, a development that triggered three months of the United States talking about getting Iran’s defenders on the Security Council — China and Russia — to talk about sanctions. And after this diplomatic offensive, all the Chinese have agreed to do is, you guessed it, talk some more about what eventually might be the language of a resolution. Which means that even if the Chinese aren’t merely stalling, the best we can hope for is several months of negotiations followed by the possible passage of a watered-down UN resolution that will neither “bite” nor “cripple” Iran.

That means that after wasting all 2009 on feckless appeasement and failed diplomacy, the most Obama can possibly hope to show for 2010 will be more failed diplomacy that produces a sanctions resolution that will do nothing to punish Iran or persuade it to back away from its drive for nuclear weapons. While we don’t doubt that the president’s acolytes will trumpet this as a great achievement, it translates into two free years of nuclear development for a regime that, as we learned last weekend, isn’t shy about letting the world know about its plans for developing even more nuclear sites.

Rather than placing pressure on Iran, what Obama has done is to grant it impunity to continue on a path toward nuclear development that will further empower this tyrannical Islamist regime and destabilize the Middle East. Though the administration continues to insist that stopping Iran is a priority, everything it has done has given Tehran confidence to continue toward its nuclear goal. All of which compels us to ask again: is Obama merely an incompetent foreign-policy president, or is he so focused on distancing himself from Israel and outreach to the Muslim world that he is actually prepared to live with a nuclear Iran?

Yesterday’s announcement that China had agreed to enter talks about the language of a new United Nations resolution about Iran’s nuclear program was hyped by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as evidence that all five Security Council members were “unified” on the issue. Of course, even Clinton conceded that this meant that there would be “a great deal of further consultation” in the weeks and months ahead.

But even before President Obama’s foreign-policy cheering section had a chance to get excited about this supposed breakthrough, the Chinese poured cold water on the president’s expectation that sanctions would happen soon. Today, the New York Times reports that it appears China’s position hasn’t moved at all: “Qin Gang, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, appeared to steer clear from any commitment for sanctions. ‘On the Iranian nuclear issue, China will continue to endeavor toward a peaceful resolution,’ he said during a regular news conference on Thursday, emphasizing that the crisis should be resolved by ‘diplomatic means.’ ”

If this sounds remarkably similar to what China has said before in a series of statements on Iran in the last year, it’s not an accident. This is pretty much what they have been saying all along as they refused to countenance Iranian sanctions that either “bite” or are “crippling,” to use the words Clinton has employed to describe what the United States desires.

So let’s recap the past 15 months of American diplomacy on Iran. After several months of fruitless attempts to “engage” Iran to get them to play nice, the Obama administration set several deadlines that ultimately turned out to be Jan. 1, 2010, for the Iranians to respond. Of course, the Iranians didn’t respond, a development that triggered three months of the United States talking about getting Iran’s defenders on the Security Council — China and Russia — to talk about sanctions. And after this diplomatic offensive, all the Chinese have agreed to do is, you guessed it, talk some more about what eventually might be the language of a resolution. Which means that even if the Chinese aren’t merely stalling, the best we can hope for is several months of negotiations followed by the possible passage of a watered-down UN resolution that will neither “bite” nor “cripple” Iran.

That means that after wasting all 2009 on feckless appeasement and failed diplomacy, the most Obama can possibly hope to show for 2010 will be more failed diplomacy that produces a sanctions resolution that will do nothing to punish Iran or persuade it to back away from its drive for nuclear weapons. While we don’t doubt that the president’s acolytes will trumpet this as a great achievement, it translates into two free years of nuclear development for a regime that, as we learned last weekend, isn’t shy about letting the world know about its plans for developing even more nuclear sites.

Rather than placing pressure on Iran, what Obama has done is to grant it impunity to continue on a path toward nuclear development that will further empower this tyrannical Islamist regime and destabilize the Middle East. Though the administration continues to insist that stopping Iran is a priority, everything it has done has given Tehran confidence to continue toward its nuclear goal. All of which compels us to ask again: is Obama merely an incompetent foreign-policy president, or is he so focused on distancing himself from Israel and outreach to the Muslim world that he is actually prepared to live with a nuclear Iran?

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