Instead of the breakthrough he had hoped for in nuclear diplomacy with Iran, Barack Obama has allowed himself to be painted into a corner. But so, too, have his Iranian counterparts, with neither side now capable of breaking the deadlock.
Mr Obama, under pressure from sceptics of engagement in Washington, Paris and Jerusalem, created an artificial deadline of December 2009 for his diplomatic efforts. The clock is ticking, warn the hawks, with Iran supposedly racing full-tilt to build nuclear weapons (although evidence of this remains scant). So Mr Obama turned a deal to send much of Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium abroad for processing into a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum. Iran’s leadership has been unable to accept this, insisting on renegotiating the terms even as it faces its own internal paralysis.
Abiding by the deadline, Mr Obama is now pressing for new sanctions against Tehran. But Russia and China remain sceptical, despite being critical of Tehran’s behaviour, and the UN is unlikely to adopt anything close to the “crippling sanctions” which the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has threatened. [continued…]