The Obama Administration continues to talk up the prospects for strong U.N. sanctions on Iran at the same time that it is becoming increasingly clear the United States is unlikely to persuade Russia and China to approve anything stronger than a mild slap on the wrist for their Iranian friends. Yesterday President Obama said “We are going to be pushing very hard to make sure that both smart and strong sanctions end up being in place soon to send a signal to Iran and other countries that this is an issue that the international community takes seriously.”
But Obama’s naïve belief in the seriousness of the “international community” was immediately contradicted by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who made it clear that Moscow sees things differently. Although he agreed that nations should not “turn a blind eye” to Iran’s nuclear defiance, he indicated that Russia would not support sanctions that would punish Iran’s people or encourage regime change. He told reporters in Prague, where he and Obama signed an arms control agreement on nuclear weapons, that: “Let me put it straightforward. I have outlined our limits for such sanctions.”
Faced with diplomatic foot-dragging from Russia, and even stronger resistance from China, the Obama Administration has dropped its talk about imposing “crippling sanctions” against Iran. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last month lowered the bar by talking about “sanctions with bite.” But any sanctions that come out of the U.N. Security Council are likely to be relatively toothless.
Such weak sanctions are unlikely to make much of an impact on the defiant Iranian regime. In fact the head of Iran’s nuclear program, Ali Akbar Salehi, today announced that Iran is building a new generation of centrifuges that can enrich uranium ten times faster than previous models.
Another Iranian official warned today that Tehran would depend on its violent friends, not the “international community,” to take action against the United States if it threatened Iran’s security. Ahmad Khatami, a member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts, said that “If America makes a crazy move, its interests will be endangered by Iran’s allies around the globe.” That is not exactly the kind of engagement that the Obama Administration has been seeking in its failed effort to resolve festering issues with Iran.