Monday, May 31, 2010

Oh, .. lest we forget: The Iran sanctions 'momentum' ...

Toni Karon in TIME/ here

"... Judging by their reactions until now, the Chinese might have been expected to respond to the Turkey-Brazil-Iran proposal by demanding that any discussion of sanctions be postponed until the potential of the confidence-building mechanism had been tested. Instead, it backed the U.S., saying the onus was on Iran to do more to satisfy international concerns over the intent of its nuclear program. So what changed?

Analyst Peter Lee points out that the Chinese are claiming, through commentaries in official publications, that Beijing extracted a significant price for its support. Not only has Beijing watered down the sanctions to be adopted by the Security Council in order to ensure they don't restrain China from expanding its already massive economic ties with Iran; Chinese analysts also claim that, in the course of a protracted series of negotiations with Washington, their government also won undertakings from Washington to exempt Chinese companies from any U.S. unilateral sanctions that punish third-country business partners with the Islamic Republic.......

While the U.S. has thus far dismissed the deal Iran reached with Brazil and Turkey as a "ploy" designed to avert new sanctions, China has been more enthusiastic, stressing that dialogue remains the route to resolving the standoff. "The Security Council discussing the Iranian nuclear issue does not mean the end of diplomatic efforts," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu on Tuesday. "We value and welcome the agreement reached among Brazil, Turkey and Iran on Tehran's research reactor." And she expressed the hope that the new proposal would soon result in a formal agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Although the Iranians were taken by surprise by China's support for Clinton's sanctions announcement, Lee argues that Iran may recognize that Beijing's intervention may have been helpful under the circumstances. Curiously enough, in a speech on Wednesday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tore into Russia for backing the U.S. position, warning that it would be considered a "historic enemy" if it supported efforts to pressure Tehran — but he appears to have avoided attacking China's support for the same sanctions package.

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