The Obami are hailing a “breakhrough” with China. Hold on to your hats: the Chinese “are prepared to work with us” on sanctions against Iran. In other words, we will begin the process of discussing what it is the Chinese will agree to. The administration spokesman hastened to add that the countries “had not agreed to any details of what the sanctions might entail.” And indeed, according to this report, there seems to be considerably less agreement than the Obami’s spin would suggest:
Just weeks before the Obama administration hopes to advance sanctions against Iran at the United Nations, the U.S. said the two presidents had instructed their governments to work together on potential sanctions designed to punish Tehran for its nuclear program. China described the outcome differently, emphasizing diplomacy as usual and avoiding any reference to sanctions.
First, it’s remarkable that we wasted 15 months on fruitless engagement and only now will begin the process of talking about what the Chinese might do. Did the Obami really imagine last year that Iran might say yes and spare us the need to pursue sanctions? Second, we already know that the agreed-upon sanctions will be no stronger than what the Russians have already indicated would be acceptable to them. We are bargaining downward from Medvedev, who has ruled out refined petroleum or other serious sanctions. And finally, the time line for all this — the negotiation, the implementation, the evaluation (is it working?) — threatens once again to run on for months and months. Recall how many deadlines we blew through last year on the journey through engagement. Meanwhile, the Iranians’ program moves ahead and the options for military action narrow, raising the question as to whether this protracted time line isn’t precisely what the mullahs need in order to realize their ambitions.