Friday, September 4, 2009

Iran Sanctions’ Summit Meeting Not Going Well, Will This Be Another Obama Administration Failure?

By Barry Rubin

The centerpiece of U.S. Middle East policy at this moment is to put higher sanctions on Iran which supposedly will make Tehran negotiate an end or slow down to its nuclear program. Even if sanctions are made much tougher, the policy won’t work. Right now, it is starting to appear—as predicted here—that the sanctions won’t even be made much tougher.

Six countries are meeting—China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia, and the United States—to raise sanctions. But at the last moment, the Iranian regime—which manipulates the West like a virtuoso plays a violin—made a last-minute offer of talks which has put the powers off their pace.

Immediately, Iran’s enablers—Russia and China—seized on this vague offer to say: Well, they want to talk so let’s postpone putting up sanctions.

By the way, tougher sanctions were supposed to be put in place around three years ago after a multi-year diplomatic effort by Britain, France and Germany failed to change Iran’s policy. It is possible that Iran will have nuclear weapons before tougher sanctions are put in place.

Yet even the main sanction being discussed is of questionable use. The two principal measures are to stop exports to Iran of refined petroleum products and to put stronger controls against banks, insurance companies, or other corporations loaning money to Iran, investing there, or insuring projects.

But guess what? President Barack Obama’s charm has not stopped China from a project that will double Iran’s ability to turn its own petroleum into gasoline, heating oil, and other products in the next three years.

Meanwhile, a Russian expert close to the government remarked: “I believe nothing new should be expected as the six nations differ over which way they should follow to tackle Iran’s nuclear program.” He also praised Iran for allowing more inspections.

The problem then is not only that Obama has put his all his eggs into one basket but that the basket is full of holes. American policymakers are likely to end up with egg on their faces.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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