Sunday, January 17, 2010

New Failures on Iran Sanctions: Will the Farce Never End?

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By Barry Rubin

It is literally incredible how ineptly the Obama Administration is handling the sanctions on Iran.

After flubbing both the September and December deadlines it set, now a meeting of the "Big Six" (Britain, China, Germany, France, Russia, and the United States) held in New York has ended without agreement on what to do next. The Chinese sent only a low-level diplomat, providing a face-saving way of not participating in higher sanctions without saying "no" either. The Russians are saying that they decided to hold more meetings with Iran, which has already clearly rejected the last offer made. It is important to note that the rejection of higher sanctions by these two countries has been clear for many months but the Obama Administration, at times with help from American media outlets, has pretended otherwise.

Meanwhile, a high-ranking U.S. official has spoken of the likelihood that the administration will be spending the next six months discussing sanctions. And meanwhile the administration has made clear that it has defined sanctions in a way that will be ineffective, that is focusing them narrowly on specific institutions supporting the regime and not on the Iranian economy.

This situation provides a vivid case study on the Obama Administration's view of the world, diplomatic skills, and unwillingness to take even a moderately tough stance on handling critical issues. Remember that this is the president who said that his foreign policy would succeed because he wouldn't impose U.S. leadership but would instead seek consensus on every issue. Now we see the fruits of this mistaken strategy.

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