As if to demonstrate that Washington refuses to be upstaged by lesser powers, Hillary Clinton blazed away in the campaign to impose not-quite crippling sanctions on Iran, after winning Russia and China’s agreement today on a draft resolution that will go to the Security Council.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
Washington called the proposed sanctions the toughest to date, but U.S. officials acknowledged they had to be softened in key areas to gain Russian and Chinese agreement.
And even as China joined in, Beijing also praised the last-minute deal Iran made with Brazil and Turkey to try to pre-empt the sanctions, calling the two efforts “dual tracks” and leaving some uncertainty over where China would ultimately side.
The agreement on a draft U.N. resolution was reached within the last several days. Senior administration officials said the timing of the announcement was intended as a direct response to the Turkish-Brazilian pact, in which Tehran renewed an offer to swap much of its nuclear fuel outside its borders for enrichment.
“This announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday.
Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters that Russia would have preferred to wait a day or two after the Brazil-Iranian deal, but the U.S. wanted to put it on the table right away.
Western officials feared that the deal reached in Tehran could throw up new hurdles to the already-delayed sanctions regime.
Mrs. Clinton said Tuesday that while the U.S. believed Turkey and Brazil’s moves were “sincere efforts,” the U.S. and its fellow permanent members of the U.N. Security council were “proceeding to rally the international community on behalf of a strong sanctions resolution.”
There was no immediate, public reaction from Iranian officials late Tuesday to the announcement of a sanctions deal.
The Turkish and Brazilian efforts still could throw a wrench into the U.S. plans. Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Brazil’s ambassador to the U.N., told reporters outside the Security Council after seeing the draft that Brazil wasn’t ready to engage in negotiations over the text because of the “new situation” presented by the fuel-swap deal.
“It is the first time that the Iranians, at such a high level, have put in writing the swap, which creates a new confidence building,” she said. The fuel-swap deal is not “meant to address all the issues,” she added, “but it is a very important first step and we should seize this opportunity.”
Washington’s reaction to the Brazilian-Turkish deal has created some apprehension in the international community. The Obama administration has worked diligently to overcome the credibility gap America developed with the international community under President George W. Bush. One element of this effort was to utilize diplomacy as a premier tool of US foreign policy.
Punitive measures such as war or sanctions would no longer be the instruments of first resort. But the reaction to the Brazilian-Turkish deal may undo some of the progress the Obama administration has achieved with the international community. Washington’s lack of appreciation for the breakthrough may fuel suspicions of whether sanctions are pursued to achieve success in diplomacy, or whether diplomacy was pursued to pave the way for sanctions – and beyond.