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Chinese and Russian Officials: Too Soon for Sanctions

12:35 PM, Dec 1, 2009 • By JAMIE FLY
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Last week, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs hailed the fact that Russia and China supported an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resolution criticizing Iran's continued noncompliance with multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions, saying in a statement that Friday's vote "underscores broad consensus in calling upon Iran to live up to its international obligations and offer transparency in its nuclear program."

The Obama administration has given Iran until the end of the year to accept one of several proposals it has been offered. Desperate to paint a picture of international unity on Iran, the administration has leaked details about a secret trip by senior NSC officials to China in the run-up to President Obama's Asia trip to try to gain Chinese support on Iran and it has trumpeted every minor variance in Russian statements on Iran as proof that the "reset" of U.S.-Russian relations is really working.

Now, with some leading Iranian officials threatening to withdraw from the NPT and President Ahmadinejad announcing Iran's plans to build ten new uranium enrichment facilities, where are our great allies China and Russia on the key question of sanctions?

According to Reuters, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang said today that "We believe that in the present circumstances the parties involved should continue intensifying diplomatic efforts…Sanctions are not the goal."

And Russia? It just so happens that Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko is visiting Tehran. Russo-Iranian energy cooperation isn't the first thing that comes to mind when you are thinking about pressuring Iran to do anything, but that's just a minor detail. During a press conference with the Iranian Foreign Minister, Shmatko said, "Based on the Russian Federation's interests, a constructive agreement between Tehran and the [P]five-plus-one is of high importance and we do not want the thing to escalate at all."

That about sums it up. The only broad consensus on Iran is that between Russia and China and it is that they will not support meaningful sanctions anytime soon. It is important to remember that this comes after Iran was revealed to be building a covert enrichment facility and after the IAEA once again criticized Iran for not providing information about its pre-2003 weaponization research. If that doesn't convince Russia and China to support sanctions, what will?

It's about time for the administration to start admitting the obvious and explain what its strategy is for imposing "crippling sanctions" on Iran.