China And Russia Expand International Pincer On Iran
Iran (for now at least) remains increasingly isolated with the news that Russia and China are now backing efforts by the U.S. and European nations to convince Tehran to pull the plug on its nuclear program:
Russia and China endorsed a package of incentives and penalties Thursday designed by Western nations to push Iran to suspend its nuclear program.
Few details of the agreement were forthcoming, and British Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett, who announced the deal in muted language, cautioned that negotiators wanted to present the package to the Iranians before making it public.
But diplomats close to the issue said incentives were similar to past proposals, including helping Iran obtain a civilian nuclear reactor. The term “sanctions” was noticeably absent from discussion, but diplomats strongly signaled that Iran would be subject to the full array of Security Council punitive measures should it refuse the offer.
“We have agreed to a set of far-reaching proposals as a basis for discussion with Iran,” said Beckett, flanked by top officials of the five permanent United Nations Security Council members and European Union foreign minister Javier Solana in the ivy-lined garden of the British Ambassador’s Vienna residence.
Iran came under the strongest pressure in three years to renounce its nuclear programmes last night when the five permanent UN security council members and Germany agreed to reward Tehran if it accepted terms for negotiations, but to move towards isolating the country and international sanctions if it did not.
Time notes that certain words will be used to describe the proposal to Iran …and certain words will be avoided:
– Why doesnâ€™t the six-nation proposal use the word â€œsanctionsâ€?? For months, Rice and other top Bush administration officials have been loudly campaigning for UN Security Council sanctions to isolate Iran politically and economically if it persists in seeking the capability to make a nuclear bomb. But in Vienna, the Americans and their partners never uttered the term, instead deploying circumlocutions such as â€œstepsâ€? and â€˜measures.â€?
The diplomats concluded that Iranians react so violently to the S word that for internal political reasons, the regimeâ€™s leaders could not attend any negotiations in which sanctions were on the table. To maximize the chances of Iranian cooperation, they agreed to forgo the S word.
– Russia and China, veto-wielding members of the Security Council, are also allergic to the notion of sanctions. Will they really go along with the US and Europeans on a Security Council resolution invoking sanctions if Iran refuses the partnersâ€™ demand to suspend enrichment and return to the table?
Anything is possible. But US officials believe Russia and China have been driven to a tipping point by Iranâ€™s outrageous behavior. â€œThe fundamental turning point was when Iran took the seals off the [enrichment] plant at the end of January,â€? says a US official. â€œThere was a sense in the room that we have to take concrete action to make it clear to the Iranians that there are two paths.”
So the ball is clearly in Iran’s court but that still doesn’t mean they have to (or will) play the game the way the U.S. Russia, China and other nations want them to play. The end game is still way out of sight.