Perhaps the worst thing about Secretary of State John Kerry is that he is both completely aloof to how both adversaries and allies perceive the United States, and he genuinely does not understand how America’s competitors seek neither peace nor conflict resolution but rather to further their position vis-à-vis America in a zero-sum game of power rivalry.
For Kerry, the Iran nuclear talks may have been about curtailing Iran’s nuclear program, but for China, they were about curtailing the United States. Speaking yesterday to reporters in Tehran after meeting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Chinese State Councilor (and former foreign minister) Yang Jiechi, declared:
Iran defended its rights in the [Vienna nuclear] negotiations and defeated the Western side. This result was achieved by Iran’s new government and through wisdom and prudence used in the talks. We respect Iran’s right to nuclear energy and uranium enrichment… Iran has started moving on the path of progress and development with your [Ruhani’s] appointment [victory in presidential elections]. And China considers Iran as a close friend and a good and strategic partner.
In the same press conference—apparently reported in Persian but not in English—Rouhani himself, rather than any aide whose comments could be later denied, doubled down on the fact that the agreement would not stop Iranian nuclear ambitions: “Iran will not withdraw from its nuclear rights, including the right to enrichment.” He then thanked China for its assistance in Geneva.
Seldom has there been such a willful forfeiture of leverage and negotiating position with the American team overseeing the talks so seemingly unaware.