Presidnt Obama’s nuclear security summit scored an early victory on Monday, since Obama was able to announce that Ukraine would give up its stock of high enriched uranium by 2012. Ukraine kept some of the high enriched uranium (HEU) from Russian warheads on its territory. The US has generally been successful in convincing former Soviet states other than Russia to give up stockpiles of HEU (uranium enriched to over 20%).
But it should be remembered that Ukraine is not a great Power, and is sandwiched uneasily between the Russian Federation and the European Union. Ukraine would like to join the EU. It has the prospect of further US economic aid. And it wants to avoid falling back under Russian control. Its best shot at relative independence and economic growth is cooperation with the West.
In contrast, Iran is not being so forthcoming. It is not afraid of any third party, the way the Ukraine fears Russia. It does not have to rush into the arms of the US and the EU to guarantee its independence. Indeed, Tehran has very bad memories of European and American political dominance.
Its nuclear enrichment program (there is no evidence of a weapons program) is intended to warn the great powers off any further meddling in Iran.
On Iran, the picture for Obama was far more mixed. Turkey announced itself firmly against ratcheting up sanctions on Iran. This stance matters because Turkey is a non-permanent member of the UNSC. Likewise Brazil currently has a seat, and its goverment, as well, has just announced opposition to further Iran sanctions.
And while China may have softened slightly on the issue of sanctions on Iran to deter it from pursuing nuclear enrichment, Beijing is unlikely to sign on to what Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called ‘crippling sanctions.’
Meanwhile, Iran took strong exception to the new Obama security doctrine that appeared to leave open the possibility of a US attack on Iran. Tehran is approaching the UN for a resolution condemning the US.
Obama needs a Ukraine-style breakthrough if his Iran policy is to bear fruit. The trick would be in convincing Iran’s ruling clerics that they would have more independence, not less, without the nuclear research program.
But apparently that would be too big a carrot for Washington to offer.