of concerted flailing by the United States have only served
to produce another inconclusive Iran sanction.
a reflection of what might be called the post-Cold War, post-veto
United Nations environment. The United States might be willing
to go on the record with a veto when, particularly in matters
of Israel, the sense of the UN is against it. But it looks
as though China has a stronger interest in upholding the image
of the UN as a valid arena for crisis resolution and compromise.
when an undesirable resolution is coming down the pipe, China
concentrates on diluting and muddling it, make sure there
are no onerous interpretative or enforcement elements, voting
for it, then hurrying to the spin room to explain what its
vote really meant.
in point: Resolution 1803, the third round of sanctions on
have been some attempts in the Western press to present the
vote (14-0 with Indonesia abstaining) as a sign of world resolve
to pressure the Iranians for refusing to give the IAEA the
answers it wants about its allegedly abandoned weapons program,
or suspend uranium enrichment.
of Xinhua, let's see what Chinese-language coverage had to
say (all translations by China Matters):
resolution] emphasized diplomatic efforts, resumed dialogue
and negotiations with Iran... balance between sanctions and
encouragement of negotiations
are] strict limits on targets of sanctions... sanctions are
'reversible', temporarily or even permanently if Iran takes
positive steps to implement the Security Council resolution...
countries have different interpretations of the resolution...
roots [of deadlock] are in the severe lack of mutual trust
between the United States and Iran. If this problem is not
resolved, then there will be no breakthrough on the Iran nuclear
an undesirable resolution is coming down the pipe, China
concentrates on diluting and muddling it, make sure
there are no onerous interpretative or enforcement elements,
voting for it, then hurrying to the spin room to explain
what its vote really meant.
increase mutual trust, the concerned parties all have to pay
attention to the positive content of the resolution-promoting
permanent representative to the United Nations said... the
purpose of the resolution is not to punish Iran, it is to
encourage the revival of a new round of diplomatic efforts...
only relying on sanctions will not resolve the problem, military
action is an even less productive route.
the United States nor Iran closed the door on negotiations
for good [!!!-ed.]"
summarize for those unwilling to wrestle with Xinhua-speak:
root cause of the Iran problem is distrust between the United
States and Iran. The problem can only be solved by discussions
between Washington and Teheran. These sanctions are face-saving
Guangya, the PRC ambassador to the UN, helpfully laid out
the Chinese position in Xinhua's English-language coverage
in case anybody didn't get the message, the article is entitled
"Chinese envoy: New UN resolution aims to reactivate diplomatic
efforts on Iran".
issue of sanctions, Wang stated:
[sanctions] "are not targeted at the Iranian people and
will not affect the normal economic and financial activities
between Iran and other countries," Wang said after the
vote. "All the sanction measures are reversible." Emphasis
root cause of the Iran problem is distrust between the
United States and Iran. The problem can only be solved
by discussions between Washington and Teheran. These
sanctions are face-saving nonsense.
might point out that sanctions that "do not affect the normal
economic and financial activities between Iran and other countries"
are not particularly effective or intimidating.
context, it should be noted that Stuart Levey, head of Treasury
Department's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence,
has been crisscrossing the world working to convince the world's
governments and banks to tighten up financial sanctions on
Iran... just as Treasury attempted, with a spectacular and,
at least in China Matters, well-documented lack of success,
to suffocate North Korea financially.
Korean sanctions failed because China refused to be intimidated
by the threat of sanctions against Chinese banks - despite
the demonstration project on Macao's Banco Delta Asia - and
declined to cut off North Korea's international financial
Guangya just made the announcement that China will do the
same for Iran.
as usual, no matter what Washington says.
I've asserted frequently that Iran recapitulates North Korea,
words, the Chinese, the Russians, and enough Europeans rejected
the U.S. strategy of escalating pressure on, and progressive
concessions by, North Korea, so the United States finally
had to abandon zero-sum and switch to win-win negotiations.
thing with Iran.
powers don't care enough about our goals to kick Teheran's
ass on our behalf.
the opposite, maybe.
bigger the discrepancy between US and opposing forces,
the easier it is to provoke an American desire to attack...
Saddam Hussein voluntarily destroyed his weapons of
mass destruction, thereby allowing America to attack
without worry. In the opposite example, North Korea...
its Chinese-language coverage, Xinhua made the interesting
choice of bookending its lead article on the UNSC vote with
a piece of think-tankage by Tian Wenlin of the China Institutes
of Contemporary International Relations entitled What the
Iran Nuclear Crisis Tells Us.
argues that the lesson of the Iran nuclear standoff is that
imbalance in military strength is a root cause of international
at the four conflicts [First Gulf War, Kosovo, Afghanistan,
Iraq War], the bigger the discrepancy between US and opposing
forces, the easier it is to provoke an American desire to
attack... Saddam Hussein voluntarily destroyed his weapons
of mass destruction, thereby allowing America to attack without
worry. In the opposite example, North Korea...
the Iranian nuclear issue, the top Iranian leadership has
been completely unyielding, since they are completely clear
that if they showed weakness, the United States would take
an inch and want a mile, demand further concessions without
end at Iran's expense.
said, 'If this question is resolved, the United States would
bring up human rights. If human rights were resolved, they'd
bring up animal rights.' [Faced with Iran's unyielding determination],
the United States unwillingly abandoned its intent to attack."
paranoiacs will find a goodly amount to chew on in Tian's
conclusion that military strength - specifically naval strength
and aircraft carriers, lots of them! - are necessary to secure
China's economic progress.
types, of course, will find interesting the unstated premise
of Tian's article - that it might be OK, or even desirable,
for Iran to have the bomb so it can continue to resist US
Iran matters, I think the selection of the piece is more significant
in that it once again places the onus for the Iran nuclear
crisis on the United States.
eschews the "nutty mullah" narrative in favor of blaming the
United States for its destabilizing overreliance on coercion
backed by its military superiority.
reinforces the theme in the main article that it will take
U.S. engagement and concessions, and not a campaign of ostracism
orchestrated by the United States and imposed through its
allies to come up with a solution.
of course, since China has signaled its resolve to deploy
its diplomatic and financial good offices to break any attempt
to construct a meaningful U.S.-led economic blockade of Iran.
when the Iranians thought that the discussion could
be defined to the manageable issue of what they were
or weren't doing with their uranium enrichment program,
the whole amorphous and open-ended issue of what the
Iranians might have done, thought about, or intended
to do with weaponized nuclear material was reopened
by the United States.
dubious takeaway from this round of sanctions can be assessed
by exploring the key subtext to the UN jibber-jabber - the
US attempt to task the IAEA with a brief to investigate discrepancies
in the Iranian account of its weapons-related activities more
administration gamesmanship with the IAEA was perhaps crucial
in stiffening Chinese resolve that the sanctions be meaningless.
administration, keen to orchestrate another round of sanctions
and obviously unhappy with its own intelligence agencies NIE
discounting Iranian nuclear weapons-related activity, had
worked successfully to put Iran's alleged weapons-related
activity and intentions back on the table at the IAEA working
level using the so-called Laptop of Death - purportedly smuggled
out of Iran in 2004 and containing evidence of illicit nuclear
minute presentation at the end of February by the IAEA to
the international diplomatic community before the UN vote,
employed Laptop material and some additional videos provided
to the IAEA by the US or our friends.
showed purported Iranian activities in the area of nuclear
tipped missiles, and triggered a door-slamming fury by the
when the Iranians thought that the discussion could be defined
to the manageable issue of what they were or weren't doing
with their uranium enrichment program, the whole amorphous
and open-ended issue of what the Iranians might have done,
thought about, or intended to do with weaponized nuclear material
was reopened by the United States.
IAEA was compelled to keep the allegations on the front burner.
was some talk that the presentation was an effort by the IAEA
chief verification official, Olli Heinonen, to undercut El
Baradei and express distaste for his grandstanding, Iran-friendly
think it's more likely that the IAEA felt it had an obligation
to assess the credibility of the allegations, and also to
co-opt the accusations and make sure that it kept control
over the whole Iranian nuclear portfolio and out of the hands
of the US even though the alleged issues - about missiles
and triggers - would seem to be beyond its conventional non-proliferation
brief and expertise.
States perhaps came out of the episode feeling rather smug
that it had paved the way for the third round of sanctions.
had also been able to put the NIE behind it, drive the IAEA
into a corner, control the public debate on Iran's program,
prevent the IAEA from ever closing the Iran case by turning
the debate to virtually unprovable questions of intent, and
provide an opening for the U.S. to monitor and second-guess
the IAEA's work inside Iran.
fact U.S. gains look pretty minimal.
(with Chinese support) briskly 86'ed the US plan to build
on the UN Security Council vote by obtaining a get-tough-on-Iran
resolution from the IAEA board of directors under the pretext
that the new (toothless) sanctions under UNSCR 1803 were sufficient.
did the Bush administration really get from this most recent
round of Iran diplomacy?
like what it got was a meaningless UNSC resolution that the
Chinese have already pledged to undercut; continued IAEA independence
and control over the Iran portfolio; a frustrated Iranian
sense that the U.S. is still committed to confrontation; growing
international awareness that trying to accommodate the US
through the mechanisms of the IAEA is probably futile; and,
I expect, an emerging global consensus that a united front
is needed not against Iran but against the United States in
order to pressure it to engage in meaningful direct negotiations.
measure, the U.S. has now elicited the assertion of a Chinese
doctrine that it is US employment of military power - and
not terrorism - that is the root cause of global instability,
and that increased military investment by China is the necessary,
inevitable, and justified response.
China Hand edits the very interesting website, China
Pope Rat In Brazil, by China Hand