The New York Times reports:
Brushing aside international calls for stricter sanctions against it, Iran said Tuesday it had begun enriching uranium for use in a medical reactor to a higher level of purity, raising the stakes again in its dispute with the United States and other countries over its nuclear program. The United States responded by saying it would seek United Nations backing for new sanctions within weeks.
Doesn’t sound like a very swift process, does it? Especially since the Chinese remain vocally opposed to sanctions. (“But news reports on Tuesday quoted a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman , Ma Zhaoxu, as urging continued ‘dialogue and negotiations,’ refusing to be drawn on the question of sanctions.”) Bibi Netanyahu responded with a statement that seems as much aimed at the Obami as at the Iranians: “I believe that what is required right now is tough action from the international community. … This means not moderate sanctions, or watered-down sanctions. This means crippling sanctions, and these sanctions must be applied right now.”
What Bibi is referring to is no secret. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both been downplaying the “crippling” part of the “crippling sanctions” that the Obama team has been promising for months. They insist the sanctions must be focused so as not to impact the Iranian people. What those might look like and how we could possibly impact the regime by such narrowly focused measures have been left vague. Meanwhile, there are very serious sanctions that in slightly different forms have passed both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, but the Obama team has been noticeably cool to those. Too crippling, I suppose.
So let’s see if, in the face of the abject failure of its engagement strategy, and with bipartisan support in Congress for very tough sanctions — “not moderate sanctions, or watered-down sanctions” — the Obami can make a final stab at preventing the revolutionary Islamic state from going nuclear. I suppose we’ll know “within weeks” — but then the Obama team was supposed to get serious in September, and again at the close of 2009. We’ve seen this routine before. Bibi is right to be nervous.