Commentary Magazine


Topic: United Nations Security Council

Congress Objects to Feckless Iran Policy

AIPAC is touting letters signed by 76 senators and 363 House members calling for tougher action on Iran. They really do want “crippling sanctions.” The House version explains:

Iran’s nuclear weapons program represents a severe threat to American national interests. Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons could lead to the proliferation of these weapons throughout the Middle East and beyond, destabilizing the global non-proliferation regime and greatly increasing the likelihood of such weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. It would also dramatically expand Iranian influence and threaten our allies in the region. It would undercut prospects for peace between Israel and her neighbors, with emboldened Iranian surrogates enjoying the strategic backing of an Iranian nuclear umbrella. And it would pose an existential threat to the State of Israel.

Iran is making steady progress in its nuclear program. It now has stored enough low enriched uranium to serve as the core for two nuclear weapons. It will soon be able to install much more advanced and efficient centrifuges. Iran has recently begun to enrich uranium to twenty percent fissile. Its weaponization program now appears to be at an advanced stage.

Mr. President, you have stated this issue is a priority for your administration. You have attempted to engage the Iranian regime for over a year. You have gone to the United Nations Security Council in an effort to impose tough new sanctions on Iran. But time is not on our side. We cannot allow those who would oppose or delay sanctions to govern either the timing or content of our efforts. As you said last July, we cannot wait until we “wake up one day and find ourselves in a much worse situation and unable to act.”

What do they want? First, “We call on you to fulfill your June 2008 pledge that you would do ‘everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.'” (No more que sera, sera.) Second, they want Obama “to reverse the practice under which the US government has awarded at least $107 billion over the past decade in federal contracts to companies investing in or doing business in Iran” and to gather support for “crippling sanctions.” And finally, they advise the president that they are proceeding with the Iran sanctions measure making its way through the House and Senate and that “by imposing punishing measures on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, rocking Iran’s banking system, and dramatically impacting Iran’s ability to import or refine petroleum” they can force the Iranians to choose between pursuing its nuclear program and “possible reconciliation.”

But we know much of this isn’t going to happen. The president has already let the cat out of the bag — he’s no longer saying that he’ll do whatever it takes to prevent the mullahs from getting the bomb. His apparent resignation to the distinct possibility that Iran will not respond to his entreaties isn’t going to be erased from the public record. What — now he’s going to say, “I really didn’t mean to sound so blasé”? And we’ve already heard from him and from Medvedev that the sanctions won’t be crippling. So that leaves the unilateral sanctions by the U.S. Do we think Obama will actually implement those? It would only highlight how insufficient are the possible mini-sanctions under consideration by the UN.

It’s nice to see Congress go on record. But it’s a tall order to wrest control of foreign policy from the executive branch. For now, Obama appears entirely averse to employing a “whatever it takes” strategy. We know it, Congress knows it, and the mullahs know it. Until that changes, it is only a matter of time before the Islamic revolutionary state acquires its nuclear bomb — and the entire Middle East embarks on a deadly arms race. It sure will throw cold water on Obama’s whole nonproliferation effort, won’t it?

AIPAC is touting letters signed by 76 senators and 363 House members calling for tougher action on Iran. They really do want “crippling sanctions.” The House version explains:

Iran’s nuclear weapons program represents a severe threat to American national interests. Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons could lead to the proliferation of these weapons throughout the Middle East and beyond, destabilizing the global non-proliferation regime and greatly increasing the likelihood of such weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. It would also dramatically expand Iranian influence and threaten our allies in the region. It would undercut prospects for peace between Israel and her neighbors, with emboldened Iranian surrogates enjoying the strategic backing of an Iranian nuclear umbrella. And it would pose an existential threat to the State of Israel.

Iran is making steady progress in its nuclear program. It now has stored enough low enriched uranium to serve as the core for two nuclear weapons. It will soon be able to install much more advanced and efficient centrifuges. Iran has recently begun to enrich uranium to twenty percent fissile. Its weaponization program now appears to be at an advanced stage.

Mr. President, you have stated this issue is a priority for your administration. You have attempted to engage the Iranian regime for over a year. You have gone to the United Nations Security Council in an effort to impose tough new sanctions on Iran. But time is not on our side. We cannot allow those who would oppose or delay sanctions to govern either the timing or content of our efforts. As you said last July, we cannot wait until we “wake up one day and find ourselves in a much worse situation and unable to act.”

What do they want? First, “We call on you to fulfill your June 2008 pledge that you would do ‘everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.'” (No more que sera, sera.) Second, they want Obama “to reverse the practice under which the US government has awarded at least $107 billion over the past decade in federal contracts to companies investing in or doing business in Iran” and to gather support for “crippling sanctions.” And finally, they advise the president that they are proceeding with the Iran sanctions measure making its way through the House and Senate and that “by imposing punishing measures on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, rocking Iran’s banking system, and dramatically impacting Iran’s ability to import or refine petroleum” they can force the Iranians to choose between pursuing its nuclear program and “possible reconciliation.”

But we know much of this isn’t going to happen. The president has already let the cat out of the bag — he’s no longer saying that he’ll do whatever it takes to prevent the mullahs from getting the bomb. His apparent resignation to the distinct possibility that Iran will not respond to his entreaties isn’t going to be erased from the public record. What — now he’s going to say, “I really didn’t mean to sound so blasé”? And we’ve already heard from him and from Medvedev that the sanctions won’t be crippling. So that leaves the unilateral sanctions by the U.S. Do we think Obama will actually implement those? It would only highlight how insufficient are the possible mini-sanctions under consideration by the UN.

It’s nice to see Congress go on record. But it’s a tall order to wrest control of foreign policy from the executive branch. For now, Obama appears entirely averse to employing a “whatever it takes” strategy. We know it, Congress knows it, and the mullahs know it. Until that changes, it is only a matter of time before the Islamic revolutionary state acquires its nuclear bomb — and the entire Middle East embarks on a deadly arms race. It sure will throw cold water on Obama’s whole nonproliferation effort, won’t it?

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Pushing Back

If the nuclear summit was meant to distract us from the failure of the Obami to devise a serious policy reasonably designed to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions, it isn’t working. As this report explains:

As Iran gets closer to fulfilling its nuclear ambitions, Republican lawmakers are pushing the Obama administration to stop whistling past the graveyard and get tough with the Islamic Republic.

Sen. John McCain said Wednesday the United States has been backing away from a brewing fight with Iran, while U.S. officials admitted that that country’s accelerated nuclear program is roughly a year away from producing a weapon.

McCain opened a Senate hearing Wednesday by saying that Iran will get the bomb unless the U.S. acts more boldly. The Arizona Republican said the U.S. keeps pointing a loaded gun at Iran, but it is failing to “pull the trigger.”

So what is the Obama administration doing? “Bill Burns, the No. 3 person at the State Department, said the United States is working as fast as it can to win new international sanctions on Iran. Burns predicted that a resolution will emerge from the United Nations Security Council this spring, and he called the case for new penalties urgent, saying he expects China will agree to some form of sanctions.” (Perhaps if it had started last Labor Day, when the first “final” deadline passed for the Iranians to cooperate, we’d already have sanctions in place and could be evaluating their effectiveness.) One sees that the supposed agreement with China is no agreement at all, and we are essentially starting at the beginning to discuss what sanctions they might agree to.

I suspect the voices inside and outside of Congress will have to turn up the volume quite a bit to get the attention of the president. He’s got his plan — nibbly sanctions we might put in place this spring (if the Chinese agree) and that won’t be confused with a “magic wand” (i.e., anything remotely crippling that might impact the mullahs’ decision-making). There is only one president, and in this regard, his outlook is what matters. It will take a huge effort to get Obama to regard the Iranian threat as the single most critical issue we face. For a president who regards collection in four years of nuclear materials from NPT signatories a great achievement and who thinks global warming is a dire emergency, it’s going to be an uphill climb.

If the nuclear summit was meant to distract us from the failure of the Obami to devise a serious policy reasonably designed to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions, it isn’t working. As this report explains:

As Iran gets closer to fulfilling its nuclear ambitions, Republican lawmakers are pushing the Obama administration to stop whistling past the graveyard and get tough with the Islamic Republic.

Sen. John McCain said Wednesday the United States has been backing away from a brewing fight with Iran, while U.S. officials admitted that that country’s accelerated nuclear program is roughly a year away from producing a weapon.

McCain opened a Senate hearing Wednesday by saying that Iran will get the bomb unless the U.S. acts more boldly. The Arizona Republican said the U.S. keeps pointing a loaded gun at Iran, but it is failing to “pull the trigger.”

So what is the Obama administration doing? “Bill Burns, the No. 3 person at the State Department, said the United States is working as fast as it can to win new international sanctions on Iran. Burns predicted that a resolution will emerge from the United Nations Security Council this spring, and he called the case for new penalties urgent, saying he expects China will agree to some form of sanctions.” (Perhaps if it had started last Labor Day, when the first “final” deadline passed for the Iranians to cooperate, we’d already have sanctions in place and could be evaluating their effectiveness.) One sees that the supposed agreement with China is no agreement at all, and we are essentially starting at the beginning to discuss what sanctions they might agree to.

I suspect the voices inside and outside of Congress will have to turn up the volume quite a bit to get the attention of the president. He’s got his plan — nibbly sanctions we might put in place this spring (if the Chinese agree) and that won’t be confused with a “magic wand” (i.e., anything remotely crippling that might impact the mullahs’ decision-making). There is only one president, and in this regard, his outlook is what matters. It will take a huge effort to get Obama to regard the Iranian threat as the single most critical issue we face. For a president who regards collection in four years of nuclear materials from NPT signatories a great achievement and who thinks global warming is a dire emergency, it’s going to be an uphill climb.

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Whittling Away at Bipartisan Support of Israel

Jeff Jacoby, the Boston Globe‘s excellent columnist, puts his finger on a disturbing trend: the increasing partisan split over Israel. This split was partially masked by the fact that a bipartisan group of 333 House members signed a letter in support of Israel — in effect, a rebuke to President Obama — organized by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Minority Whip Eric Cantor. But, as Jeff notes, “only seven Republicans… declined to sign the letter, compared with 91 Democrats — more than a third of the entire Democratic caucus.” Similarly, while the Gallup poll shows that 67 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Israel and only 15 percent support the Palestinians, there is a partisan split hidden in the numbers:

While support for Israel vs. the Palestinians has climbed to a stratospheric 85 percent among Republicans, the comparable figure for Democrats is an anemic 48 percent. (It was 60 percent for independents.)

These figures are hardly cause for panic. Support for Israel remains deep and strong in American politics, but you can see that the hard Left’s turn against Israel, which has been getting more pronounced for decades, is starting to affect the Democratic mainstream. My concern is that President Obama’s sharp rebukes of Prime Minister Netanyahu will further drive down support in his party for Israel — especially if the president decides to mount a concerted public campaign painting Israel as the culprit in the peace talks. For the time being, pro-Israel sentiment on Capitol Hill will somewhat rein in the president’s ability to punish Israel (although he would have a free hand not to veto the usual anti-Israel resolutions in the United Nations Security Council). But for how much longer can Israel count on the support of Democratic and Republican administrations alike? I don’t know, and that worries me — as it should worry all supporters of Israel.

Jeff Jacoby, the Boston Globe‘s excellent columnist, puts his finger on a disturbing trend: the increasing partisan split over Israel. This split was partially masked by the fact that a bipartisan group of 333 House members signed a letter in support of Israel — in effect, a rebuke to President Obama — organized by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Minority Whip Eric Cantor. But, as Jeff notes, “only seven Republicans… declined to sign the letter, compared with 91 Democrats — more than a third of the entire Democratic caucus.” Similarly, while the Gallup poll shows that 67 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Israel and only 15 percent support the Palestinians, there is a partisan split hidden in the numbers:

While support for Israel vs. the Palestinians has climbed to a stratospheric 85 percent among Republicans, the comparable figure for Democrats is an anemic 48 percent. (It was 60 percent for independents.)

These figures are hardly cause for panic. Support for Israel remains deep and strong in American politics, but you can see that the hard Left’s turn against Israel, which has been getting more pronounced for decades, is starting to affect the Democratic mainstream. My concern is that President Obama’s sharp rebukes of Prime Minister Netanyahu will further drive down support in his party for Israel — especially if the president decides to mount a concerted public campaign painting Israel as the culprit in the peace talks. For the time being, pro-Israel sentiment on Capitol Hill will somewhat rein in the president’s ability to punish Israel (although he would have a free hand not to veto the usual anti-Israel resolutions in the United Nations Security Council). But for how much longer can Israel count on the support of Democratic and Republican administrations alike? I don’t know, and that worries me — as it should worry all supporters of Israel.

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Sanctions That Nibble

At AIPAC this week, Hillary Clinton promised not “crippling” sanctions against Iran but rather sanctions that would “bite.” That appears to be an overstatement. This report explains:

The U.S. has backed away from pursuing a number of tough measures against Iran in order to win support from Russia and China for a new United Nations Security Council resolution on sanctions, according to people familiar with the matter.

Among provisions removed from the original draft resolution the U.S. sent to key allies last month were sanctions aimed at choking off Tehran’s access to international banking services and capital markets, and closing international airspace and waters to Iran’s national air cargo and shipping lines, according to the people.

This is pathetic. The problem, of course, is that engagement did not, as promised, sell Russia and China on crippling sanctions that might actually have had some impact on the mullahs. (“The disclosure of weakened proposals came as U.S. officials sought to persuade Russia and China to back measures against Iran in a conference call on Wednesday among the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany, the first such meeting including China since mid-January.”) So we begin the process of watering down and then watering down some more the economic measures that are the Obami’s sole means now — they have in effect taken military force off the table and are uninterested in regime change — of persuading the mullahs to put aside their nuclear ambitions.

The report explains:

The current resolution still would target major power centers in Iran, in particular the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the country’s elite military force, according to a person familiar with the draft. It would also stiffen a broad range of existing sanctions, including the search and seizure of suspicious cargo bound for Iran through international waters and a ban on states offering financial assistance or credits for trade with Iran. If approved, they would be the most stringent measures Iran has faced.

Yet the original U.S. draft would have gone much further. The cargo sanctions initially named Iran Air and Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and demand a blanket ban of their airplanes and ships from other countries’ airspace or territorial waters. The revised version calls for interdiction only of shipments that would evade already-existing sanctions.

The earlier resolution would have made it difficult for Iran to insure imports and exports of oil and other essential commodities, by barring foreign insurers from serving international transport contracts from Iran. … The previous draft would also have barred Iran’s access to international capital markets by prohibiting foreign investment in Iranian bonds.

This has been the flaw in the entire sanctions strategy from the get-go. By the time something is negotiated, watered down, implemented, and its results assessed, it is too little and too late. In the process we reveal ourselves to be unserious and uncommitted to doing “whatever it takes” (Tony Blair’s formulation but certainly not the Obami’s) to prevent the revolutionary Islamic state from acquiring nuclear weapons. We are, it seems, inching ever closer to pronouncement of a full-blown “containment” approach — the inevitable alternative after the Obami have frittered away time and credibility and forsworn military action and regime change. The “unacceptable” is about to become reality.

At AIPAC this week, Hillary Clinton promised not “crippling” sanctions against Iran but rather sanctions that would “bite.” That appears to be an overstatement. This report explains:

The U.S. has backed away from pursuing a number of tough measures against Iran in order to win support from Russia and China for a new United Nations Security Council resolution on sanctions, according to people familiar with the matter.

Among provisions removed from the original draft resolution the U.S. sent to key allies last month were sanctions aimed at choking off Tehran’s access to international banking services and capital markets, and closing international airspace and waters to Iran’s national air cargo and shipping lines, according to the people.

This is pathetic. The problem, of course, is that engagement did not, as promised, sell Russia and China on crippling sanctions that might actually have had some impact on the mullahs. (“The disclosure of weakened proposals came as U.S. officials sought to persuade Russia and China to back measures against Iran in a conference call on Wednesday among the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany, the first such meeting including China since mid-January.”) So we begin the process of watering down and then watering down some more the economic measures that are the Obami’s sole means now — they have in effect taken military force off the table and are uninterested in regime change — of persuading the mullahs to put aside their nuclear ambitions.

The report explains:

The current resolution still would target major power centers in Iran, in particular the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the country’s elite military force, according to a person familiar with the draft. It would also stiffen a broad range of existing sanctions, including the search and seizure of suspicious cargo bound for Iran through international waters and a ban on states offering financial assistance or credits for trade with Iran. If approved, they would be the most stringent measures Iran has faced.

Yet the original U.S. draft would have gone much further. The cargo sanctions initially named Iran Air and Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and demand a blanket ban of their airplanes and ships from other countries’ airspace or territorial waters. The revised version calls for interdiction only of shipments that would evade already-existing sanctions.

The earlier resolution would have made it difficult for Iran to insure imports and exports of oil and other essential commodities, by barring foreign insurers from serving international transport contracts from Iran. … The previous draft would also have barred Iran’s access to international capital markets by prohibiting foreign investment in Iranian bonds.

This has been the flaw in the entire sanctions strategy from the get-go. By the time something is negotiated, watered down, implemented, and its results assessed, it is too little and too late. In the process we reveal ourselves to be unserious and uncommitted to doing “whatever it takes” (Tony Blair’s formulation but certainly not the Obami’s) to prevent the revolutionary Islamic state from acquiring nuclear weapons. We are, it seems, inching ever closer to pronouncement of a full-blown “containment” approach — the inevitable alternative after the Obami have frittered away time and credibility and forsworn military action and regime change. The “unacceptable” is about to become reality.

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Give Green a Chance

The Obama administration is working to convince the United Nations Security Council to impose yet another round of sanctions on Iran. Those efforts have to overcome the recalcitrance of China, Russia, and other Security Council members. But even if the effort succeeds, how much impact will it have? To judge by the historical evidence, not much. The New York Times ran a fascinating article last Sunday with a horrifying headline that sums it all up: “U.S. Enriches Companies Defying Its Policy on Iran.”

The article examines the implementation of the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 — legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton that is far tougher than anything the Security Council might approve. It imposes, in theory at least, major American sanctions on companies that invest in Iran’s energy sector or its nuclear or missile programs:

The law gives the president a menu of possible punishments he can choose to levy against offending companies. Not only do they risk losing federal contracts, but they can also be prevented from receiving Export-Import Bank loans, obtaining American bank loans over $10 million in a given year, exporting their goods to the United States, purchasing licensed American military technology and, in the case of financial firms, serving as a primary dealer in United States government bonds or as a repository for government funds.

It is well known that not a single company has actually been sanctioned under the act. The administrations of Clinton, Bush (yes Bush!), and Obama have all refused to act in ways that might hinder relations with the European Union, China, Japan, India, or other countries whose firms do big business in Iran. But the Times account makes clear that the situation is even more ludicrous. Far from sanctioning companies doing business with Iran, the federal government has awarded them “more than $107 billion in contract payments, grants and other benefits over the past decade.”

Both houses of Congress recently have passed legislation, now heading for reconciliation, that will toughen up the existing sanctions on Iran’s oil sector. But if existing sanctions aren’t being enforced, what hope is there for future sanctions, whether they come from Congress or the United Nations? The U.S. and its allies simply have not displayed the will to get tough with Iran. With time running short before Iran has the capability to field nukes, it’s time to look at other alternatives — starting with more support for the Green Movement. Between 2003 and 2009, we spent an average of more than $100 billion a year on the Iraq war. Imagine what only a small portion of that that money — say $10 billion, or one month’s worth of operations in Iraq — could achieve if given to groups working for the peaceful overthrow of the Iranian regime. That, to me, seems a more rewarding approach than sanctions, which have failed time and again.

The Obama administration is working to convince the United Nations Security Council to impose yet another round of sanctions on Iran. Those efforts have to overcome the recalcitrance of China, Russia, and other Security Council members. But even if the effort succeeds, how much impact will it have? To judge by the historical evidence, not much. The New York Times ran a fascinating article last Sunday with a horrifying headline that sums it all up: “U.S. Enriches Companies Defying Its Policy on Iran.”

The article examines the implementation of the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 — legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton that is far tougher than anything the Security Council might approve. It imposes, in theory at least, major American sanctions on companies that invest in Iran’s energy sector or its nuclear or missile programs:

The law gives the president a menu of possible punishments he can choose to levy against offending companies. Not only do they risk losing federal contracts, but they can also be prevented from receiving Export-Import Bank loans, obtaining American bank loans over $10 million in a given year, exporting their goods to the United States, purchasing licensed American military technology and, in the case of financial firms, serving as a primary dealer in United States government bonds or as a repository for government funds.

It is well known that not a single company has actually been sanctioned under the act. The administrations of Clinton, Bush (yes Bush!), and Obama have all refused to act in ways that might hinder relations with the European Union, China, Japan, India, or other countries whose firms do big business in Iran. But the Times account makes clear that the situation is even more ludicrous. Far from sanctioning companies doing business with Iran, the federal government has awarded them “more than $107 billion in contract payments, grants and other benefits over the past decade.”

Both houses of Congress recently have passed legislation, now heading for reconciliation, that will toughen up the existing sanctions on Iran’s oil sector. But if existing sanctions aren’t being enforced, what hope is there for future sanctions, whether they come from Congress or the United Nations? The U.S. and its allies simply have not displayed the will to get tough with Iran. With time running short before Iran has the capability to field nukes, it’s time to look at other alternatives — starting with more support for the Green Movement. Between 2003 and 2009, we spent an average of more than $100 billion a year on the Iraq war. Imagine what only a small portion of that that money — say $10 billion, or one month’s worth of operations in Iraq — could achieve if given to groups working for the peaceful overthrow of the Iranian regime. That, to me, seems a more rewarding approach than sanctions, which have failed time and again.

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Re: This Would Certainly Be Hope ‘N Change

It is becoming the week for bipartisan foreign policy. We saw a group of Democratic and Republican senators call for the Christmas Day bomber to be treated as an enemy combatant. We saw the 9/11 commission chiefs call for a reexamination of our handling of terrorists. Now a large bipartsian group is demanding those “crippling sanctions” on Iran. Senators Evan Bayh (D-Indiana), Jon Kyl (R-Arizona), Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut), Chuck Schumer (D-New York), John McCain (R-Arizona), Robert Casey (D-Pennsylvania), Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), and David Vitter (R-Louisiana) sent a letter to the president calling for him to abide by his own one-year deadline on diplomacy and impose real pressure on the Iranian regime. The letter reads in part:

We believe that it is extremely important for the world to know that the United States means what it says, and that we in fact do what we say we are going to do. As you rightly stated in your Nobel Prize acceptance speech in Oslo, “If we want a lasting peace, then the words of the international community must mean something. Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price.”

We understand that your Administration is likely to pursue a fifth sanctions resolution at the United Nations Security Council. We strongly support your Administration’s painstaking diplomacy in support of this goal and hope that it succeeds in securing measures that stand a reasonable chance of changing the behavior of Iran’s government for the better. However, based on previous experience, we are acutely aware of the limits of Security Council action, in particular given the likely resistance to meaningful sanctions by the People’s Republic of China. We note with dismay the recent statement of China’s ambassador to the United Nations that, “This is not the right time or right moment for sanctions, because the diplomatic efforts are still going on.”

The senators urge Obama to “pursue parallel and complementary measures, outside the Security Council, to increase the pressure on the Iranian government.” They note that the president already has authority to do so under existing law, and that the senators “are also committed to quickly passing new comprehensive sanctions legislation in Congress that will provide you with additional authorities to pressure Iran, and urge you to make full use of them.”

Once again, it seems Obama is trailing, not leading. There is a bipartisan consensus to at least extract ourselves from the morass of engagement. One wonders what alternative course of action Obama really believes there is. Do pin-prick sanctions focused supposedly on only certain elements within the Iranian regime offer any realistic hope of success? Or is Obama edging closer to a containment strategy, in which meaningful sanctions and military action are ruled out, leaving only the option of living with a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state? We will find out soon enough whether Obama intends to go down in history as the American president who allowed such a regime to go nuclear. In the meantime, these lawmakers would do well to keep up the drumbeat. I suspect it will have to get very loud before the administration acts.

It is becoming the week for bipartisan foreign policy. We saw a group of Democratic and Republican senators call for the Christmas Day bomber to be treated as an enemy combatant. We saw the 9/11 commission chiefs call for a reexamination of our handling of terrorists. Now a large bipartsian group is demanding those “crippling sanctions” on Iran. Senators Evan Bayh (D-Indiana), Jon Kyl (R-Arizona), Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut), Chuck Schumer (D-New York), John McCain (R-Arizona), Robert Casey (D-Pennsylvania), Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), and David Vitter (R-Louisiana) sent a letter to the president calling for him to abide by his own one-year deadline on diplomacy and impose real pressure on the Iranian regime. The letter reads in part:

We believe that it is extremely important for the world to know that the United States means what it says, and that we in fact do what we say we are going to do. As you rightly stated in your Nobel Prize acceptance speech in Oslo, “If we want a lasting peace, then the words of the international community must mean something. Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price.”

We understand that your Administration is likely to pursue a fifth sanctions resolution at the United Nations Security Council. We strongly support your Administration’s painstaking diplomacy in support of this goal and hope that it succeeds in securing measures that stand a reasonable chance of changing the behavior of Iran’s government for the better. However, based on previous experience, we are acutely aware of the limits of Security Council action, in particular given the likely resistance to meaningful sanctions by the People’s Republic of China. We note with dismay the recent statement of China’s ambassador to the United Nations that, “This is not the right time or right moment for sanctions, because the diplomatic efforts are still going on.”

The senators urge Obama to “pursue parallel and complementary measures, outside the Security Council, to increase the pressure on the Iranian government.” They note that the president already has authority to do so under existing law, and that the senators “are also committed to quickly passing new comprehensive sanctions legislation in Congress that will provide you with additional authorities to pressure Iran, and urge you to make full use of them.”

Once again, it seems Obama is trailing, not leading. There is a bipartisan consensus to at least extract ourselves from the morass of engagement. One wonders what alternative course of action Obama really believes there is. Do pin-prick sanctions focused supposedly on only certain elements within the Iranian regime offer any realistic hope of success? Or is Obama edging closer to a containment strategy, in which meaningful sanctions and military action are ruled out, leaving only the option of living with a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state? We will find out soon enough whether Obama intends to go down in history as the American president who allowed such a regime to go nuclear. In the meantime, these lawmakers would do well to keep up the drumbeat. I suspect it will have to get very loud before the administration acts.

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Big Six Meeting on Iran Produces Less than Nothing

Representatives of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany met today to discuss the fact that Iran is making fools out of them. But the results of this meeting will give no comfort to a world worried about Tehran’s march toward nuclear capability. According to the Associated Press, the West is “disappointed” about Iran’s decision to renege on a UN-brokered deal that could have defused the crisis. But despite the clear signals from the rogue Islamist regime that it has absolutely no interest in re-negotiating the pact even under more terms still more favorable to them, “no new sanctions were discussed during the meeting, according to an EU source.”

The anonymous EU official said that “there was no mention of imposing further sanctions against Iran at the meeting. These things are a matter of timing, and this was not the right time for it.”

When will be the right time? “The Western officials said they would hold a follow-up meeting around Christmas.”

And for those wondering whether the UN’s chief nuclear watchdog was doing his bit to raise the alarm about this imminent threat, how about this:

“In Berlin, Mohamed El-Baradei, the UN nuclear watchdog agency chief, pressed Iran to work with the international community. ‘I would hate to see that we are moving back to sanctions,’ El-Baradei said. ‘Because sanctions, at the end of the day … really don’t resolve issues.’”

No, they don’t. Especially when they aren’t actually being agreed upon or implemented.

Right now, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must be laughing themselves silly at this toothless response from the West. While President Obama circles the globe in a fruitless effort to find support for the sort of sanctions that might force the Iranians to reconsider their position, the Islamist regime continues to delay even the hope of negotiations to buy more time for their program. Obama’s feckless campaign of “engagement” has rightly earned their scorn. After this performance, who could blame the Iranians for believing that the West isn’t serious about stopping them?

Representatives of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany met today to discuss the fact that Iran is making fools out of them. But the results of this meeting will give no comfort to a world worried about Tehran’s march toward nuclear capability. According to the Associated Press, the West is “disappointed” about Iran’s decision to renege on a UN-brokered deal that could have defused the crisis. But despite the clear signals from the rogue Islamist regime that it has absolutely no interest in re-negotiating the pact even under more terms still more favorable to them, “no new sanctions were discussed during the meeting, according to an EU source.”

The anonymous EU official said that “there was no mention of imposing further sanctions against Iran at the meeting. These things are a matter of timing, and this was not the right time for it.”

When will be the right time? “The Western officials said they would hold a follow-up meeting around Christmas.”

And for those wondering whether the UN’s chief nuclear watchdog was doing his bit to raise the alarm about this imminent threat, how about this:

“In Berlin, Mohamed El-Baradei, the UN nuclear watchdog agency chief, pressed Iran to work with the international community. ‘I would hate to see that we are moving back to sanctions,’ El-Baradei said. ‘Because sanctions, at the end of the day … really don’t resolve issues.’”

No, they don’t. Especially when they aren’t actually being agreed upon or implemented.

Right now, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must be laughing themselves silly at this toothless response from the West. While President Obama circles the globe in a fruitless effort to find support for the sort of sanctions that might force the Iranians to reconsider their position, the Islamist regime continues to delay even the hope of negotiations to buy more time for their program. Obama’s feckless campaign of “engagement” has rightly earned their scorn. After this performance, who could blame the Iranians for believing that the West isn’t serious about stopping them?

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When You’re On A Roll . . .

Hillary Clinton is out to convince voters she’s tougher and savvier than Barack Obama. The New York Times tells us:

Iran has lodged a formal protest at the United Nations about comments by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton that the United States would “totally obliterate” Iran if it attacked Israel with nuclear weapons, the state-run news agency, IRNA, reported Thursday. Iran’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Mehdi Danesh-Yazdi, sent a letter of protest on Wednesday to the United Nations secretary general and the United Nations Security Council denouncing the remarks, according to IRNA. Mrs. Clinton made the comments in an interview on ABC last week. “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran,” she said when she was asked what she would do if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons. “In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them,” she added.

Maybe this doesn’t carry much weight in a Democratic primary, but in the general election (should she make it that far) this would be gold for Clinton. She wants to show voters she’s tough and not like all those weak-kneed Democrats of the past? This can be Exhibit A. If she really wants to wow them, she can reply that she doesn’t give a fig what the UN says. But that might be a bridge too far, even for her.

For now, she’s miles ahead in the macho (or whatever you want to call it) contest.

Hillary Clinton is out to convince voters she’s tougher and savvier than Barack Obama. The New York Times tells us:

Iran has lodged a formal protest at the United Nations about comments by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton that the United States would “totally obliterate” Iran if it attacked Israel with nuclear weapons, the state-run news agency, IRNA, reported Thursday. Iran’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Mehdi Danesh-Yazdi, sent a letter of protest on Wednesday to the United Nations secretary general and the United Nations Security Council denouncing the remarks, according to IRNA. Mrs. Clinton made the comments in an interview on ABC last week. “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran,” she said when she was asked what she would do if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons. “In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them,” she added.

Maybe this doesn’t carry much weight in a Democratic primary, but in the general election (should she make it that far) this would be gold for Clinton. She wants to show voters she’s tough and not like all those weak-kneed Democrats of the past? This can be Exhibit A. If she really wants to wow them, she can reply that she doesn’t give a fig what the UN says. But that might be a bridge too far, even for her.

For now, she’s miles ahead in the macho (or whatever you want to call it) contest.

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Russia to the West: Please Don’t Defend Yourself

Russia and the United States are no closer to agreement on a missile shield for Europe after a high-level meeting in Moscow on Tuesday. “On the matter of principle the positions of our two sides have not changed,” said Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. There has not been much movement on details either. Serdyukov made his remarks after conferring with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Russia’s Foreign Minster Sergei Lavrov.

In order to allay Moscow’s concerns, Washington has offered to allow Russian inspection of the Polish and Czech sites for the shield and agreed not to switch on the system until Iran more fully develops its missile-launch capabilities. Moreover, the Washington Post’s Jim Hoagland reported today that Rice and Gates this month delivered to the Kremlin a “Strategic Framework Declaration” offering participation in both existing missile defenses and future development of defensive technology.

The fundamental question is why the Bush administration, at this late date, is still seeking Russian approval of our efforts to defend ourselves. The American plan of ten interceptors to be based in Poland poses no practical threat to Moscow’s 800 missiles. Even with qualitative and quantitative improvements in the American-designed system, there is no possibility that, during the lifetime of any living Russian, interceptors will be able to destroy sufficient number of missiles in flight so as to eliminate the deterrent effect of Moscow’s arsenal.

The Russians can, if they want, convince the West not to deploy any missile defense system in Europe. How? They can cooperate with Washington and Brussels in stopping Iran from developing nuclear weapons. To date, however, the Kremlin’s leaders are intent on helping Tehran build its horrible instruments of destruction while complaining about Washington’s efforts to protect Europe. Russians are building Iran’s first nuclear generating station, supplying the uranium fuel to Tehran, selling air-defense systems to protect Iranian nuclear sites, providing underpinning to the failing Iranian economy, and giving Tehran crucial diplomatic support in the United Nations Security Council and the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

So what is the United States doing in response? On Wednesday, the White House announced that President Bush had accepted a last-minute invitation to go to the Black Sea resort of Sochi to meet with President Vladimir Putin after next week’s NATO summit in Bucharest and his visit to Croatia. The American leader is expected to try to obtain the Kremlin’s cooperation on, among other things, missile defense. “I’m optimistic we can reach accord on very important matters,” Bush said on Wednesday at a meeting with foreign reporters in Washington.

Let’s not complicate things, Mr. President. You don’t need to go all the way to Putin’s dacha in Sochi next month. Get on the phone today and tell the Russian this: “We will take all steps to defend ourselves and our allies as long as you help arm an adversary that threatens the international community.” It should be as simple as that.

Russia and the United States are no closer to agreement on a missile shield for Europe after a high-level meeting in Moscow on Tuesday. “On the matter of principle the positions of our two sides have not changed,” said Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. There has not been much movement on details either. Serdyukov made his remarks after conferring with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Russia’s Foreign Minster Sergei Lavrov.

In order to allay Moscow’s concerns, Washington has offered to allow Russian inspection of the Polish and Czech sites for the shield and agreed not to switch on the system until Iran more fully develops its missile-launch capabilities. Moreover, the Washington Post’s Jim Hoagland reported today that Rice and Gates this month delivered to the Kremlin a “Strategic Framework Declaration” offering participation in both existing missile defenses and future development of defensive technology.

The fundamental question is why the Bush administration, at this late date, is still seeking Russian approval of our efforts to defend ourselves. The American plan of ten interceptors to be based in Poland poses no practical threat to Moscow’s 800 missiles. Even with qualitative and quantitative improvements in the American-designed system, there is no possibility that, during the lifetime of any living Russian, interceptors will be able to destroy sufficient number of missiles in flight so as to eliminate the deterrent effect of Moscow’s arsenal.

The Russians can, if they want, convince the West not to deploy any missile defense system in Europe. How? They can cooperate with Washington and Brussels in stopping Iran from developing nuclear weapons. To date, however, the Kremlin’s leaders are intent on helping Tehran build its horrible instruments of destruction while complaining about Washington’s efforts to protect Europe. Russians are building Iran’s first nuclear generating station, supplying the uranium fuel to Tehran, selling air-defense systems to protect Iranian nuclear sites, providing underpinning to the failing Iranian economy, and giving Tehran crucial diplomatic support in the United Nations Security Council and the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

So what is the United States doing in response? On Wednesday, the White House announced that President Bush had accepted a last-minute invitation to go to the Black Sea resort of Sochi to meet with President Vladimir Putin after next week’s NATO summit in Bucharest and his visit to Croatia. The American leader is expected to try to obtain the Kremlin’s cooperation on, among other things, missile defense. “I’m optimistic we can reach accord on very important matters,” Bush said on Wednesday at a meeting with foreign reporters in Washington.

Let’s not complicate things, Mr. President. You don’t need to go all the way to Putin’s dacha in Sochi next month. Get on the phone today and tell the Russian this: “We will take all steps to defend ourselves and our allies as long as you help arm an adversary that threatens the international community.” It should be as simple as that.

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Why Are We Funding Bushehr?

Yesterday, John Dingell, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, charged that a Department of Energy program is financially supporting two Russian institutes helping to build the Bushehr reactor in Iran, the country’s first nuclear generating station. The Bush administration has worked hard—and unsuccessfully—to stop Bushehr, which could be operating in a few months. “What policy logic justifies DOE funding Russian institutes which are providing nuclear technology to Iran?” Dingell asked in a letter to Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. “How does this advance our non-proliferation goals?”

Good questions, Mr. Dingell. The program in question, the Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention, was created in 1994 to employ Russian scientists laid off after the end of the Cold War so they wouldn’t work for terrorist organizations or rogue states. Dingell cited two institutes funded by the program, Scientific Research Institute of Measuring Systems and the Federal Scientific and Industrial Center of Nuclear Machine Building.

The Department of Energy, through a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration, denied the charges. “We are confident that none of the projects cited by the House committee, or any of the department’s scientist engagement projects with Russia, support nuclear work in Iran,” the NNSA stated. “In coordination with other U.S. government agencies, we take all measures necessary to ensure that neither money nor technology falls into the hands of countries of concern.”

Unfortunately, these days Washington and Moscow are not concerned about the same countries. We may think that Iran is exceedingly dangerous, but Russians apparently view that country as just another customer wanting to harness the atom for the good of humankind. Russia’s commercial relations with Iran, especially those involving the Bushehr plant, are one reason that Moscow is not willing to back meaningful sanctions in the United Nations Security Council.

There is another principal concern. It does not matter whether American funds are specifically earmarked for Iranian projects at those institutes. There is a problem if our money is going to those institutes for any purpose. Why? Because cash is fungible—any dollar that goes to an institute permits that organization to free up resources to help Iran. Moreover, Russian institutes seem to be thriving these days, so it’s high time to consider whether we should curtail our support of Russian nuclear scientists. “How many other Russian institutes funded by DOE are also performing work on the Iranian nuclear program?” Dingell’s letter asks. At present, we are paying for more than a hundred projects.

As Dingell noted this week, Federal law sanctions U.S. companies that develop Iranian oil. If we sanction our own companies, how can we assist Russian businesses that are hard at work furthering Tehran’s nuclear ambitions?

Yesterday, John Dingell, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, charged that a Department of Energy program is financially supporting two Russian institutes helping to build the Bushehr reactor in Iran, the country’s first nuclear generating station. The Bush administration has worked hard—and unsuccessfully—to stop Bushehr, which could be operating in a few months. “What policy logic justifies DOE funding Russian institutes which are providing nuclear technology to Iran?” Dingell asked in a letter to Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. “How does this advance our non-proliferation goals?”

Good questions, Mr. Dingell. The program in question, the Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention, was created in 1994 to employ Russian scientists laid off after the end of the Cold War so they wouldn’t work for terrorist organizations or rogue states. Dingell cited two institutes funded by the program, Scientific Research Institute of Measuring Systems and the Federal Scientific and Industrial Center of Nuclear Machine Building.

The Department of Energy, through a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration, denied the charges. “We are confident that none of the projects cited by the House committee, or any of the department’s scientist engagement projects with Russia, support nuclear work in Iran,” the NNSA stated. “In coordination with other U.S. government agencies, we take all measures necessary to ensure that neither money nor technology falls into the hands of countries of concern.”

Unfortunately, these days Washington and Moscow are not concerned about the same countries. We may think that Iran is exceedingly dangerous, but Russians apparently view that country as just another customer wanting to harness the atom for the good of humankind. Russia’s commercial relations with Iran, especially those involving the Bushehr plant, are one reason that Moscow is not willing to back meaningful sanctions in the United Nations Security Council.

There is another principal concern. It does not matter whether American funds are specifically earmarked for Iranian projects at those institutes. There is a problem if our money is going to those institutes for any purpose. Why? Because cash is fungible—any dollar that goes to an institute permits that organization to free up resources to help Iran. Moreover, Russian institutes seem to be thriving these days, so it’s high time to consider whether we should curtail our support of Russian nuclear scientists. “How many other Russian institutes funded by DOE are also performing work on the Iranian nuclear program?” Dingell’s letter asks. At present, we are paying for more than a hundred projects.

As Dingell noted this week, Federal law sanctions U.S. companies that develop Iranian oil. If we sanction our own companies, how can we assist Russian businesses that are hard at work furthering Tehran’s nuclear ambitions?

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Squeezing Iran

On Tuesday, the five members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany agreed to a new round of sanctions, including a travel ban on key Iranian individuals, limits on businesses and military branches involved in nuclear activities, and the monitoring of banks and other institutions implicated in Iran’s nuclear program. While the forthcoming resolution merely adds stronger monitoring to previous sanctions, it achieves a unified western front against Iran and establishes a diplomatic platform for future resolutions, as necessary.

This represents progress. (I disagree with Gordon on this point.) As Norman Podhoretz argues, it indicates that the National Intelligence Estimate may not be as damaging as previously thought. Indeed, rather than derailing the U.S.-led effort to thwart Iran’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities, the NIE simply convinced our allies that a military strategy against Tehran had been put on the back-burner, thus refocusing efforts towards a strengthened diplomatic strategy.

Yet two key hurdles remain in insuring the effectiveness of these new sanctions. First, Russia has downplayed their seriousness, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying that the forthcoming resolution will not require tough measures against Tehran other than calling for “countries to be vigilant in developing trade, economic, transport and other relations with Iran so that these relations are not used to transfer illegal, banned materials that can be used in nuclear affairs.”

Second, the new sanctions may have little consequence for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s domestic standing, which will face a major test when Iranians vote in the March parliamentary elections. Over 70 percent of the reformist candidates have been disqualified, making it difficult for Iranians to hold Ahmadinejad accountable for his failed economic policies. It is thus hardly surprising that Ahmadinejad’s response to the announcement of new sanctions was typically defiant, indicating that increased isolation might yield few domestic consequences.

Still, courting the Iranian public provides one strategy forward. As the Washington Institute’s Mehdi Khalaji reports, a low voter turnout will significantly undercut the regime’s legitimacy. At Davos, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice thus wisely declared Iranians “a proud people with a great culture,” vowing expanded trade should Iran end its enrichment of uranium. Yet Russia’s narrow interpretation of the sanctions threatens to undermine the authority of these appeals, mitigating the political damage that Ahmadinejad might incur on account of them. Bottom line: keep an eye on Moscow.

On Tuesday, the five members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany agreed to a new round of sanctions, including a travel ban on key Iranian individuals, limits on businesses and military branches involved in nuclear activities, and the monitoring of banks and other institutions implicated in Iran’s nuclear program. While the forthcoming resolution merely adds stronger monitoring to previous sanctions, it achieves a unified western front against Iran and establishes a diplomatic platform for future resolutions, as necessary.

This represents progress. (I disagree with Gordon on this point.) As Norman Podhoretz argues, it indicates that the National Intelligence Estimate may not be as damaging as previously thought. Indeed, rather than derailing the U.S.-led effort to thwart Iran’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities, the NIE simply convinced our allies that a military strategy against Tehran had been put on the back-burner, thus refocusing efforts towards a strengthened diplomatic strategy.

Yet two key hurdles remain in insuring the effectiveness of these new sanctions. First, Russia has downplayed their seriousness, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying that the forthcoming resolution will not require tough measures against Tehran other than calling for “countries to be vigilant in developing trade, economic, transport and other relations with Iran so that these relations are not used to transfer illegal, banned materials that can be used in nuclear affairs.”

Second, the new sanctions may have little consequence for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s domestic standing, which will face a major test when Iranians vote in the March parliamentary elections. Over 70 percent of the reformist candidates have been disqualified, making it difficult for Iranians to hold Ahmadinejad accountable for his failed economic policies. It is thus hardly surprising that Ahmadinejad’s response to the announcement of new sanctions was typically defiant, indicating that increased isolation might yield few domestic consequences.

Still, courting the Iranian public provides one strategy forward. As the Washington Institute’s Mehdi Khalaji reports, a low voter turnout will significantly undercut the regime’s legitimacy. At Davos, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice thus wisely declared Iranians “a proud people with a great culture,” vowing expanded trade should Iran end its enrichment of uranium. Yet Russia’s narrow interpretation of the sanctions threatens to undermine the authority of these appeals, mitigating the political damage that Ahmadinejad might incur on account of them. Bottom line: keep an eye on Moscow.

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Reds Wearing Blue in Darfur

Yesterday, 135 Chinese engineers and medical officers entered Nyala, capital of the South Darfur region of Sudan, as United Nations peacekeepers. The Justice and Equality Movement, a rebel group, demanded that the Chinese leave immediately. “China is complicit in the genocide being carried out in Darfur,” said a JEM commander. The Paris-based Darfur Internationally Displaced People also called on Beijing to depart because “genocide and robbery are taking place in Darfur since 2003 thanks to Chinese weapons.”

China is the largest supplier of weapons to the Sudanese government, which has sponsored the murderous Janjaweed militia. Reuters reports that Beijing has increased its arms sales to Khartoum by 25-fold between 2002 and 2005, and the Chinese are still providing the tools of war. More importantly, China has continually protected Khartoum in the United Nations Security Council, where it has threatened to exercise its veto to prevent any action that might stop the killing in Darfur. It’s no wonder that Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir insisted on Chinese participation in the peacekeeping force if non-Africans were included. After all, Beijing is genocide’s best friend.

So the arrival of Chinese peacekeepers in Darfur is a hideous development. Who is responsible? The most visible culprit, of course, is the United Nations. Yet the UN is complicit because its member states make it so. Washington, for example, may not be able to prevent Beijing from using its veto to prolong mass murder in Darfur, yet we also have a veto. And we should have used all our power to prevent the Chinese from going there wearing the blue berets and scarves of the United Nations.

Yesterday, 135 Chinese engineers and medical officers entered Nyala, capital of the South Darfur region of Sudan, as United Nations peacekeepers. The Justice and Equality Movement, a rebel group, demanded that the Chinese leave immediately. “China is complicit in the genocide being carried out in Darfur,” said a JEM commander. The Paris-based Darfur Internationally Displaced People also called on Beijing to depart because “genocide and robbery are taking place in Darfur since 2003 thanks to Chinese weapons.”

China is the largest supplier of weapons to the Sudanese government, which has sponsored the murderous Janjaweed militia. Reuters reports that Beijing has increased its arms sales to Khartoum by 25-fold between 2002 and 2005, and the Chinese are still providing the tools of war. More importantly, China has continually protected Khartoum in the United Nations Security Council, where it has threatened to exercise its veto to prevent any action that might stop the killing in Darfur. It’s no wonder that Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir insisted on Chinese participation in the peacekeeping force if non-Africans were included. After all, Beijing is genocide’s best friend.

So the arrival of Chinese peacekeepers in Darfur is a hideous development. Who is responsible? The most visible culprit, of course, is the United Nations. Yet the UN is complicit because its member states make it so. Washington, for example, may not be able to prevent Beijing from using its veto to prolong mass murder in Darfur, yet we also have a veto. And we should have used all our power to prevent the Chinese from going there wearing the blue berets and scarves of the United Nations.

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South Africa’s Gall

Yesterday on contentions, Gordon Chang called for the United Nations Security Council to vote on a sanctions resolution against the Burmese military junta led by General Than Shwe. “It’s time to see who has the gall to vote against condemning the junta with words and sanctions,” he declared.

There are several countries that have such “gall,” though one of them might come as a surprise: South Africa. Back in January, the United States introduced a fairly innocuous resolution urging the Burmese junta to release political prisoners, enact democratic reforms, and halt violent attacks on ethnic minorities. South Africa, which had just assumed a temporary seat on the Council in January, joined human rights luminaries of China and Russia in siding against the Western democracies. How could the African National Congress-led government of South Africa oppose such a measure? This is a government that, during the apartheid years, called for similar international sanctions against the white-led regime, which was less repressive than the Burmese junta.

In response to a parliamentary question on the South African Security Council vote filed by a member of the opposition Democratic Alliance, the South African Minister of Foreign Affairs replied:

The adoption of this resolution would have set a precedent for the work of the Council, because any member of the Council could bring any country for consideration, even though it might not pose a threat to regional and international peace and security.

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Yesterday on contentions, Gordon Chang called for the United Nations Security Council to vote on a sanctions resolution against the Burmese military junta led by General Than Shwe. “It’s time to see who has the gall to vote against condemning the junta with words and sanctions,” he declared.

There are several countries that have such “gall,” though one of them might come as a surprise: South Africa. Back in January, the United States introduced a fairly innocuous resolution urging the Burmese junta to release political prisoners, enact democratic reforms, and halt violent attacks on ethnic minorities. South Africa, which had just assumed a temporary seat on the Council in January, joined human rights luminaries of China and Russia in siding against the Western democracies. How could the African National Congress-led government of South Africa oppose such a measure? This is a government that, during the apartheid years, called for similar international sanctions against the white-led regime, which was less repressive than the Burmese junta.

In response to a parliamentary question on the South African Security Council vote filed by a member of the opposition Democratic Alliance, the South African Minister of Foreign Affairs replied:

The adoption of this resolution would have set a precedent for the work of the Council, because any member of the Council could bring any country for consideration, even though it might not pose a threat to regional and international peace and security.

How is it that South African apartheid threatened “regional and international peace and security,” but the daily atrocities of the Burmese junta do not? The bizarre position of the South Africans is the product of much forward-thinking analysis on the part of the African National Congress, which has ruled the single-party-dominated democracy since 1994. South Africa has long opposed international and even regional efforts to stave off the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe, telling the world that the situation is one for the Zimbabwean people to deal with themselves. This is an abject impossibility, considering that one side to the dispute is a crazed tyrant who has no desire to negotiate any of his power away, and who controls the army, police force, and the distribution of scarce food supplies.

The African National Congress looks north to Zimbabwe in horror at what might become of its own political power in South Africa. No, South Africa is not about to become the nightmare situation for whites that Zimbabwe has become. Rather, the ANC sees that an upstart opposition—consisting of trade unionists, ethnic minorities, civil society activists, and white farmers—successfully challenged Zimbabwe’s legendary liberation hero in a series of democratic polls (only to be thwarted by physical intimidation and murder). The ANC worries, understandably, what precedent would be set if a liberation movement-cum-political party were thrown out of power in Zimbabwe, and what would happen if a similar fate were to befall them. It is for this reason that the African National Congress government allows Zimbabwe to fester, never approaching what can be the country’s only viable political solution: regime change.

Peter Vale, the Nelson Mandela Professor of Politics at South Africa’s Rhodes University, traveled to Burma over a decade ago at the behest of a Scandinavian government, in order to provide advice to opposition groups based upon the South African anti-apartheid experience. “Was SA’s experience instructive elsewhere?” he asks. This is what he reports:

But the high hopes that the African National Congress had promised for this country’s foreign policy had been largely muted. The cunning insertion of the 19th-century idea of “national interest” into the foreign policy agenda had emptied all high-sounding words of their content. In their place, a new procedural discourse purported to link SA to the “real world”—this held that the legal clause always carried greater weight than the liberation cause. . . .
It was both difficult and painful to explain this to the Burmese. Their understandings of this country glowed in the hype around the ending of apartheid and were embellished by Nelson Mandela’s commanding international standing. Surely, I was repeatedly asked, SA would do something that would both secure the release of Aung San Sui Kyi—who had been under house arrest for six years—and get conversations going between her and the junta.

Chang wants to know if any country has “the gall” to oppose sanctions on the miserable junta in Rangoon. South Africa, or, more precisely, the African National Congress, does.

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Libya, Newest Security Council Member

Meet the newest members of the United Nations Security Council: Vietnam, Croatia, Costa Rica, Burkina Faso, and Libya, all elected yesterday for two-year terms starting next January 1. The United States chose not to fight Tripoli’s bid, which was unopposed. “We have not actively campaigned against them,” said State Department spokesman Tom Casey in the beginning of this month. Previously, Washington had engaged in a fifteen-year campaign to keep Colonel Qaddafi’s repugnant regime off the Council.

At one time, that regime was considered an international pariah. Yesterday, 178 of 192 nations in the General Assembly voted for the North African state. As Alejandro Wolff, the U.S. deputy ambassador to the UN, said, “The world obviously does change.”

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Meet the newest members of the United Nations Security Council: Vietnam, Croatia, Costa Rica, Burkina Faso, and Libya, all elected yesterday for two-year terms starting next January 1. The United States chose not to fight Tripoli’s bid, which was unopposed. “We have not actively campaigned against them,” said State Department spokesman Tom Casey in the beginning of this month. Previously, Washington had engaged in a fifteen-year campaign to keep Colonel Qaddafi’s repugnant regime off the Council.

At one time, that regime was considered an international pariah. Yesterday, 178 of 192 nations in the General Assembly voted for the North African state. As Alejandro Wolff, the U.S. deputy ambassador to the UN, said, “The world obviously does change.”

But has Libya? The same one-man system still rules the North African state. That tyrant was responsible for the deaths of two Americans in the 1986 bombing of a Berlin nightclub—and for the killing of 270 people from 21 countries over Lockerbie in 1988. “I feel that the U.S. has totally lost its moral compass,” said Susan Cohen, who lost her twenty-year-old daughter in the downing of Pan Am 103.

The outraged mother is right. In reality, the only thing that has changed is Qaddafi’s take on geopolitics. That is a slim reed—the Libyan strongman is, after all, known to be mercurial. Yet, if there is any justification for Washington’s passive stance toward Libya—and this is not much comfort for Ms. Cohen and the other grieving parents, children, spouses, and friends—it is the need to show a path for bad governments to return to the international community.

But which governments will learn from Libya? Iran, unfortunately, is bound to be unimpressed by the rewards offered to Qaddafi for his apparent conversion, because Tehran’s mullahs are much more determined to upset the global order. Perhaps the unpredictable Kim Jong Il will see a lesson in yesterday’s events. Yet, if Washington cannot convince the Korean to do a Qaddafi, America’s acceptance of Libya ultimately will be seen as an act of weakness instead of one of forgiveness.

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Bush’s “Nothingburger”

Yesterday, just moments after President Bush finished his address to the U.N. General Assembly, Bill Kristol called the speech a “nothingburger.” The Weekly Standard editor, appearing on the Fox News Channel, was complaining that the Commander-in-Chief had said virtually nothing about Iran at a time when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was lounging in the audience and Iranians were helping to kill Americans in Iraq.

The President’s silence on Iran was indeed troubling. But he nonetheless delivered an important message. “Americans are outraged by the situation in Burma,” the President declared. He announced that the United States would tighten economic sanctions, expand a visa ban, and continue to support humanitarian groups. He called on the U.N. and its member nations to help the Burmese people “reclaim their freedom” and put an end to a “nineteen-year reign of fear.”

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Yesterday, just moments after President Bush finished his address to the U.N. General Assembly, Bill Kristol called the speech a “nothingburger.” The Weekly Standard editor, appearing on the Fox News Channel, was complaining that the Commander-in-Chief had said virtually nothing about Iran at a time when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was lounging in the audience and Iranians were helping to kill Americans in Iraq.

The President’s silence on Iran was indeed troubling. But he nonetheless delivered an important message. “Americans are outraged by the situation in Burma,” the President declared. He announced that the United States would tighten economic sanctions, expand a visa ban, and continue to support humanitarian groups. He called on the U.N. and its member nations to help the Burmese people “reclaim their freedom” and put an end to a “nineteen-year reign of fear.”

Bush’s words came at a critical moment. Hours after he left the podium in New York, government security forces in the capital of Rangoon, now known as Yangon, fired on protesters. At least five of them died. The generals ordered the crackdown after Beijing, apparently, gave them the green light to use force. They had been unable to quell more than a month of street demonstrations across the country. This week there have been protests numbering 100,000 in the capital. (In 1988, the junta killed an estimated 3,000 citizens participating in similar protests.)

The Rangoon generals, who have caused a long-term economic downturn, could not maintain themselves without material and diplomatic support from their neighbors. China has been their primary backer. This January, for instance, Beijing vetoed a U.S.-sponsored United Nations Security Council resolution on Burma, and in May the Chinese regime refused to join ASEAN in urging the generals to release Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy advocate who was imprisoned immediately after her party won national elections in 1990.

The U.N. and Asian regional organizations have been hamstrung by Beijing—and to a lesser extent by Moscow and New Delhi. As a result, the generals in Rangoon have been able to maintain their repressive regime in the face of dissent at home and withering criticism abroad. Now it is up to the United States, the power of last resort in the international system, to provide the support for democratic change in Burma. So did President Bush serve up a nothingburger yesterday? Nothing could be further from the truth.

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(New) Leader of the Free World

On Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, addressing the Indian parliament, proposed the formation of a partnership of democracies in Asia. The grouping, an “arc of freedom and prosperity,” would include, in addition to India and Japan, Australia and the United States. “This partnership is an association in which we share fundamental values such as freedom, democracy, and respect for basic human rights as well as strategic interests,” Abe said.

Is Tokyo becoming the leading proponent of a free world? Since July of last year, Japan, among the democracies ringing the Pacific Ocean, has adopted the most resolute foreign policy positions on Asia. For instance, the United Nations Security Council’s resolutions on North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs were unsatisfactory, but they would have been weaker still if Tokyo had not persuaded Washington to adopt a stiffer attitude. Now, Abe is pushing a grand coalition that Washington should have proposed.

President Bush likes to talk about “ending tyranny in our world,” but he’s not been very good at it. And no wonder—he’s been too busy trying to cooperate with Russia and China, nations with dangerous ambitions and the ruthlessness to pursue them. Abe does not have the diplomatic clout to put together his proposed “broader Asia” partnership of democracies, but the United States does. Obviously, Abe won’t be running in next year’s American presidential election, but those who will should be talking to him, the most interesting leader in the free world.

On Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, addressing the Indian parliament, proposed the formation of a partnership of democracies in Asia. The grouping, an “arc of freedom and prosperity,” would include, in addition to India and Japan, Australia and the United States. “This partnership is an association in which we share fundamental values such as freedom, democracy, and respect for basic human rights as well as strategic interests,” Abe said.

Is Tokyo becoming the leading proponent of a free world? Since July of last year, Japan, among the democracies ringing the Pacific Ocean, has adopted the most resolute foreign policy positions on Asia. For instance, the United Nations Security Council’s resolutions on North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs were unsatisfactory, but they would have been weaker still if Tokyo had not persuaded Washington to adopt a stiffer attitude. Now, Abe is pushing a grand coalition that Washington should have proposed.

President Bush likes to talk about “ending tyranny in our world,” but he’s not been very good at it. And no wonder—he’s been too busy trying to cooperate with Russia and China, nations with dangerous ambitions and the ruthlessness to pursue them. Abe does not have the diplomatic clout to put together his proposed “broader Asia” partnership of democracies, but the United States does. Obviously, Abe won’t be running in next year’s American presidential election, but those who will should be talking to him, the most interesting leader in the free world.

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Silence on Nahr al-Bared

For the past three months, a Palestinian refugee camp in the Middle East has been under attack, resulting in the death of hundreds of people and the displacement of nearly half of the camp’s 40,000 residents. Yet the United Nations Security Council has not held an emergency session to condemn the attack. Nor have the governments of France and Britain issued statements condemning the “atrocities” against the Palestinian refugees in the Nahr al-Bared camp in northern Lebanon. For those who may wonder why there is no public outcry, the answer is simple. The army that is attacking the camp with heavy artillery and helicopter warships is not the IDF. It’s an Arab army—the Lebanese Army.
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For the past three months, a Palestinian refugee camp in the Middle East has been under attack, resulting in the death of hundreds of people and the displacement of nearly half of the camp’s 40,000 residents. Yet the United Nations Security Council has not held an emergency session to condemn the attack. Nor have the governments of France and Britain issued statements condemning the “atrocities” against the Palestinian refugees in the Nahr al-Bared camp in northern Lebanon. For those who may wonder why there is no public outcry, the answer is simple. The army that is attacking the camp with heavy artillery and helicopter warships is not the IDF. It’s an Arab army—the Lebanese Army.

Palestinian refugee camps in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon have long served as bases for various terror groups. In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the IDF has been forced over the past few years to launch pinpoint operations against Hamas, Fatah, and Islamic Jihad terrorists who find shelter among civilians. Most of the Israeli military operations have drawn sharp criticism from the international community and the Arab world, even when the raids resulted only in the killing or capture of the terrorists.

I was one of the journalists covering the battle in the West Bank’s Jenin refugee camp in 2002. Then, the Israelis lost 23 soldiers because they were reluctant to use artillery and tanks out of fear that civilians would be hurt. I still remember how IDF officers briefed their soldiers before the operation, asking them to do their utmost to avoid civilian casualties. Although more than 80 percent of the victims of the ensuing battle were members of armed groups that had operated freely in the camp, many human rights organizations (and some governments) continue to refer to the events there as the “Jenin massacre.”

In the case of Nahr al-Bared, the story is completely different. No one seems to care about the fact that dozens of civilians have been killed in the fighting between Lebanese troops and terrorists belonging to the al Qaeda-linked Fatah al-Islam group. A Palestinian who fled the camp two weeks ago told me that over 200 houses have been completely destroyed in the fighting, and that bodies have been lying in the streets for weeks.

“We brought this tragedy upon ourselves,” he admitted. “We allowed this group of terrorists to establish their bases inside the camp and now we are paying the price. The world doesn’t care about us anymore because they say we had harbored the terrorists and provided them with food and medicine.” Have Palestinian refugees in other camps in the Middle East drawn the same conclusion? The answer is a big no. Militiamen and armed gangs continue to operate in most of these camps, especially in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon. The Lebanese army and the IDF still have a lot of difficult work ahead of them. Sadly, many civilians will continue to pay the price—unless they wake up one morning and decide to expel the terrorists from their streets.

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