The other side of the ‘time’ coin I mentioned yesterday (a far less optimistic side) is Iran’s potential use of the fuel swap to stall sanctions. In the past, this technique has worked out well. If one assumes that, once again, Iran is not sincere in its offer and is simply “playing Lucy and the football with the LEU,” negotiations could be over before they even begin.
Enter Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at this morning’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on New START.
“We have reached agreement on a strong draft with the cooperation of both Russia and China,” she says, at the most inopportune and, frankly odd, time possible:
We plan to circulate that draft resolution to the entire Security Council today. And let me say, Mr. Chairman, I think this announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide.
Hmm – wasn’t expecting that. I am reminded, though, of the reason I decided to support now-President Barack Obama in the 2008 primaries.
If the council adopts the resolution, it would represent the fourth round of sanctions against Iran. Unfortunately for sanctions, many have already accepted their inevitable failure…
In recent weeks administration officials have been downplaying expectations. Mrs. Clinton no longer refers to ‘crippling’ sanctions, the word she used in the summer of 2009. Earlier this year she referred to ‘biting’ sanctions, and President Obama, in an interview in April, declined to characterize how the sanctions would affect Iran. Other officials say they do not expect these sanctions, even if they pass as now written, to dramatically change Iran’s behavior.
With this realization and a heavy dose of skepticism, the administration has decided to go against better judgment and impose sanctions anyway… quickly… just to get them out of the way and then…negotiate? Probably not.
Clinton’s statement this morning looks like an all out rejection.
As details of a new UN sanctions resolution begin to emerge, members of the Security Council acknowledge that sanctions are not an end game. The Obama Administration will need to move forward with other options, even with strong multilateral sanctions in place.
Ambassador Susan Rice and others noted at the UN that the original purpose of the fuel swap was as a confidence-building measure. Without that benefit, the swap holds little meaning. Iran’s refusal to suspend enrichment to 20 percent and an amorphous timeline for removal of LEU in the Turkey-Brazil deal have been deemed “unacceptable,” according to Clinton.
While Iran has shown that it does not want these sanctions or further international isolation, and may therefore bend to international pressure, the political timing of this announcement is anything but ideal. To maintain face, Iran’s leaders will feel that they need to come out strongly against the US for refusing to accept (or even negotiate on) their own deal.
Sadly, this move could easily represent a step back in US/Iran relations and, potentially, progress in stalling Iran’s nuclear program.