Obama, the UN and Future Iran Sanctions

President Obama is slowly putting Iran in a box. His cancellation of the useless and expensive so-called “missile shield” program in eastern Europe, which had needlessly antagonized Russia, has been rewarded with greater Russian cooperativeness on Iran. The US right wing accused Obama of a failure of nerve. But in fact his move was shrewd and gutsy, since he predisposed Russia to increased cooperation with the US in regard to Iran’s nuclear research program. Obama’s full court press for a United Nations Security Council resolution on nuclear disarmament also pulled the rug out from under Iran’s previous grandstanding tactics, whereby it accused the US and its allies of only wanting nuclear dominance, not the abolition of nukes.

Obama chaired the UN Security Council at the summit level on Thursday, and managed to get through an important resolution on nuclear disarmament.

United Nations Television has video:

The BBC notes that there are increasing fears that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is breaking down. It was originally pitched as a bargain between the nuclear powers and the rest of the world, such that the countries with nukes would gradually get rid of them, while sharing expertise in nuclear energy-generation, while the other countries would agree not to acquire them.

Israel was the first non-European country to refuse to sign and then to go on to develop nuclear weapons by the early 1970s, with French and British help.

Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency censured Israel for its estimated 200 warheads, acquiescing in a resolution introduced by Arab states. The vote was another sign, in the wake of the damning Goldstone report on Israeli atrocities in Gaza, that the international community is fast losing patience with unilateral Israeli policies.

In the 1990s, India and Pakistan got the bomb (India had done some low-yield test as early as the 1970s). More recently, North Korea has. Many countries have or seek what is called the “Japan option.” It is generally thought that Japan could construct a nuclear weapon very rapidly if it felt threatened enough. This emergency capacity is also thought to be sought by Iran, which denies that it currently has a weapons research program.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedov signalled on Thursday that his country could eventually support further UNSC sanctions on Iran if Tehran declines to be more transparent about its nuclear research program with the IAEA. His position appeared more open to increased sanctions than that expressed recently by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is widely regarded as the de facto ruler of the Russian Federation.

Russia Today has video:

Medvedev’s flexibility comes in the wake of the Obama administration’s cancellation of plans for missile shield installations in eastern Europe. Although both countries deny that there is any quid pro quo, it seems obvious that Obama’s good will gesture has yielded positive results in Moscow with regard to Iran policy.

Washington’s earlier push at the United Nations against the Iranian nuclear research program foundered when Iran charged hypocrisy on the part of the nuclear powers and insisted that its program is solely peaceful (an allegation that as far as US intelligence can tell is probably true). Obama’s stress on new nuclear disarmament agreements is in part intended to blunt any further Iranian diplomatic campaign and to put Iran in the position of looking obstreperous if it is not forthcoming in the upcoming negotiations with the 5 permanent UNSC members plus Germany.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown took a hard line position, urging further US sanction, according to ITN:

Brown erred in charging Iran with having a nuclear weapons program, which US intelligence can find no evidence for. But because it is using centrifuge technology that is open-ended and could be suitable for dual use, Western leaders such as Brown are suspicious that the program has weapons implications down the road.

China disagreed with Brown’s stance, and is opposed to further sanctions on Iran. But China has a doctrine of “Harmonious Development,” which prescribes that it stays out of the way of the other great powers and avoid political adventurism while it grows its economy. The Chinese might well be susceptible to US and UK pressure to move against Iran if the outcome of the forthcoming 5 + 1 talks is disappointing.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s appearance at the UN was decried by Israeli liberals as clownish. He seemed to take Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s bait by trying to offer documentary proof of the Holocaust (the event is not in doubt and doesn’t need to be proven) and then by referring to little Hamas in Gaza (pop. 1.5 mn.) as Nazis. Isn’t there a rule that if you make an analogy to the Nazis in your argument, you automatically lose? And since Israel declined to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has a couple hundred warheads, and has occasionally brandished them against other countries, Netanyahu altogether lacks credibility as a critic of Iran’s peaceful civilian nuclear research program.

Andrew Butters at at Time magazine explores the issue of whether making the Middle East a nuclear-free zone, as some have suggested, is a realistic goal. He concludes that it is more realistic than might be at first assumed.

End/ (Not Continued)

17 Responses

  1. Sanctions to punish Ahmedinijad may seem like a good idea but look what happened to the Iraqi people in the 90's. Those calling for sanctions may well have the same insane goals in mind. Saddam was merely an excuse to wreck an entire country – starting with it's sanitation infrastructure. Those calling, or rather, gagging, for this have already given two examples of what they have in mind in Iraq and Gaza. If they think this will make them more secure this merely confirms yet again that they are deluded.

  2. "pulled the rug out from under Iran's previous grandstanding tactics, whereby it accused the US and its allies of only wanting nuclear dominance, not the abolition of nukes"

    Yes, sure, as if we are going to believe it just because Obama said it. What about all his high rethoric about Zionist colonisation? His tail is between his hind legs, the same is right about Israel nukes (VERY real ones)

    In short, Obama is a shamless con man, and if the prof. believes him, it does not made him sound too "informed"

  3. "Officials tell AP Iran has second enrichment plant"
    link to news.yahoo.com

    Said Obama: "Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow."
    It's about time you realized that too, Prof. Cole.

  4. And is Iraq supposed to play a role in such sanctions (muffled guffaw)?

  5. Dear Professor Cole

    Today's announcement of some more Iranian infrastucture that someone forgot to mention probably makes the case for a nuclear weapons free Middle East overwhelmingly clear.

    The Iranians were in a bind that if they told the IAEA then it would leak to the Americans and the Israelis.

    It is understandably prudent of them to diversify their production facility and hide it inside a mountain, given the bloodcurdling Israeli propaganda of the last few years.

    It is interesting to speculate when President Obama was told about the installation.

    However yesterdays histionics from Netanyahu disqualifies him from having control of the release of either a conventional stike or a nuclear strike on the Iranian installations.

    We wait with interest to hear proposals to remove the fission and thermonuclear capability from the arid southeastern corner of the Mediterranean.

  6. Let's say naively once more that the whole treatment of Iran by the Western powers is tainted heavily by the disdain, racism, and colonialism that they are accustomed to serve for the last 300 years!
    Brown, and Sarkozy, and Obama, and Medvedev are NOT the "world community", NOT the "rest of the world", NOT the "international community". They are only the clowns representing the exploiters of the world. (Quotes are not from the article, but from the main media outlets).
    Listen to our media; listen to them laughing at any non-world-economic-power leader (take Gaddafi for example, not to pick only at A-N). Reminds one naively and obviously of how the European "listened" to the "negroes" when they headed to the heart of Africa, or to the "savages" in the Americas. Didn't they think they were animals and toys and clowns they could ridicule and destroy with no regret? Did this attitude ever change? Who are we kidding?
    Disgusting how "the West's" masses have not learned a thing from the past!
    Indeed, "the West" (you know what I mean) might not like Gaddafi, or Ahmadinejad, or whoever is not aligned with our view of the World and its exploitation (dictator or "democrat", that is not the issue).
    But Gaddafi for example is very much an important African figure, and a respected one for a large proportion of Africans (Oh my god!). Sounds impossible for people covered with colonial filth to accept!
    From all the clowns that walk and talk at the UN, I sure did not hear much of value over the years, but I heard Gaddafi's statement that the "Security Council" is the "Council of Terror"!
    Of course "the West" can laugh the statement til death, and all of Ahamdinejad's statements as well, but they sound so true for a lot of people part of the "rest of Humanity". The West does not care: the West is too content! The West has it all! The West is the boss of it all!

  7. Breaking news this morning about Iran revealing it had a new secret facility, which while not online yet, could be brought into operation in a few months. Of course, one must be cautious around such breaking news, as the only thing they tend to break is credulity.

  8. Looks like China is not going along with sanctions and it is surprised that no western MSM ( NYT where are you?) has picked up on the news about the censure.

  9. Regarding reports of a "secret" nuclear facility in Iran: BIG DEAL!!! Under the terms of Iran's safeguards agreement with the IAEA, Iran is only required to inform the IAEA of the existence of a nuclear facility 180-days prior to the introduction of nuclear material into the facility. In other words, Iran may be perfectly within its right NOT to have declared the facility earlier. See link to tinyurl.com

  10. ref : “[British Prime Minister Gordon] Brown erred in charging Iran with having a nuclear weapons program, [about] which US intelligence can find no evidencebusted! a nuclear programme about which US intelligence has known, but until recently has not revealed : “Western powers demanded access to ‘a secret Iranian nuclear site’, and today threatened to impose sanctions if Tehran failed to comply with the international community. The stark ultimatum was issued by the US, Britain, France and Germany at the G20 after Tehran was forced to admit that it had indeed built an underground uranium enrichment plant inside a mountain near the holy city of Qum. President Obama, flanked by Gordon Brown and President Sarkozy said that Tehran had until October 1 to comply with UN resolutions on nuclear proliferation. Mr Obama insisted that, despite Iranian protestations to the contrary, "the size and configuration of this facility is inconsistent with a peaceful programme." Mr. Brown said the scale of the Iranian "serial deception" in hiding the plant for may years "will shock and anger the whole international community and it will harden our resolve. The international community has no choice today but to draw a line in the sand."

    Indeed professor, it is satisfying to see an American President here play his cards so deftly. One only wishes that he would have done so w.r.t. domestic challenges such as financial re-regulation and health care reform… otoh, Perhaps the lesson learned, history writ will be that: oppressive régimes and their narcissistic 'Supreme Leaders' are nowadays nowhere near as difficult and dangerous opponents as predatory Corporations and their sociopathic executives?

  11. When US intel said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, the US increased sanctions and eventually bombed the hell out of the country. Now the US intel says that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program, the US is increasing sanctions and there is talk of bombing the hell out of the country. I have always thought of Informed Comment as being relatively objective. Yet, notwithstanding repeated statements from the CIA to the contrary, you continue to push the view that Iran does have a weapons program. Why? It seems to be not only irrational, but somewhat insane.

  12. When you track all of Medvedov's remarks open-mindedly, you really have to twist your ear to hear the hope of sincere, whole-hearted cooperation from them.

    It's a fundamental mistake made by people who desperately want to hear something: like when rookie salesmen report back to their manager how they've got the big account on the line. It's naive wishful thinking.

    Putin and Medvedov ultimately HAVE to act in Russia's best strategic interests. Obama has to make a quite a case that to cooperate is in their enlighted best interest, and to get over that bar with full and effective sanctions. However impressed Medvedov (alone from Putin) may been during this visit, he will have to look at the geopolitic facts with a cold and flinty eye tomorrow morning.

    Ultimately, it behooves Russia to lead the US on, to increase our reliance on Russian provided access to Afghanistan, and to leave us as sapped and hamstrung as possible.

    Unless you really believe THEY would at some level be persuaded that a new age has come.

  13. The facility is not yet finished and this is mere grandstanding. Iran is not in any box, only the one in Dr. Cole's imagination.
    We have tried military and economic might and it failed in both instances. More and more, the world is looking at the US as marginalizing itself with less and less clout thanks to the disastrous last 8 years.
    I would add that in terms of the current president he is trying to placate the establishment on the one hand and at the same time move on the progressive agenda. Eventually he will have to deliver to both or he will spend all the effort at spin without substance.

    What can the US Britain and France do? They are acting as if it is still 1901. This is finished, China would not allow sanctions and I am not sure Russia will either. IF they do, the credibility of the security council will be further eroded.

  14. "Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's appearance at the UN was decried by Israeli liberals as clownish. He seemed to take Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's bait by trying to offer documentary proof of the Holocaust (the event is not in doubt and doesn't need to be proven)…"
    Ahmadinejad played right into Netanyahu's hands by bringing his blatant holocaust denial to the UN. It gave Netanyahu the opportunity to tie Iran firmly to the anti-semites who wish not only the end of Israel but the end of Jews. (Why is it that those who most fervently deny the holocaust are those who would most fervently like it to happen again?) Without this opportunity, Netanyahu might have had to try to defend Israeli policies–a much harder job.

    " …and then by referring to little Hamas in Gaza (pop. 1.5 mn.) as Nazis…"
    Is there a minimum required size for Nazism?

    "…Isn't there a rule that if you make an analogy to the Nazis in your argument, you automatically lose?"
    Godwin's Law (link to en.wikipedia.org). Does it apply to those who regularly accuse Israel of Nazism?

  15. "His cancellation of the useless and expensive so-called "missile shield" program in eastern Europe,"

    It is important to note that Obama did not "cancel" the missile shield in Poland. He stated that it was "postponed" until a system could be built that would defend both Israel and Turkey. he also threatened to go ahead with the Bush plan if Russia refuses to sanction Iran.

    BBC: "The Obama administration's decision to postpone deployment of a missile shield in Eastern Europe in favour of proven regional missile defence systems will provide better protection against Iran's current and near-future capabilities."

    link to news.bbc.co.uk

    In addition, he is selling missile defense systems to Israel, Romania, and Turkey.

    "I'm glad to see the Obama administration abandoning the really dumb and provocative long-range missile defense system based in Poland and the Czech Republic and replacing it with a short-range missile defense system that's sea-based with sites in (probably) Romania, Israel and Turkey."

    link to voices.washingtonpost.com

    Also, Obama's lack of commitment to nuclear disarmament is clearly evidenced by his applying sanctions to Iran (despite not having a weapon) while guaranteeing billions in aid to Israel.

    These are glaring omissions, Mr. Cole.

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