The New York Times‘ Editorial Board fell into lock-step with the Obama administration yesterday, calling for the United States to impose additional sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran.
I have so many disagreements with this article that it is difficult to know where to start, but here are three objections to their analysis.
1. The Board says, “We were glad to see Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton publicly warn China, which seems especially intractable, that it faces diplomatic isolation if it fails to back new sanctions.”
Does anyone seriously think that China is concerned about being “diplomatically isolated” if it refuses to go along with sanctions? It is hard to imagine what “diplomatic isolation” even means in a world in which China owns nearly one trillion dollars worth of U.S. treasuries.
Besides, Clinton is making a curious argument. She is, in effect, saying that China’s energy security requires that it join the United States in imposing additional sanctions. Not surprisingly, China seems to have concluded that, in fact, its interests are better served by preserving cooperative relations and increasing its energy agreements with the Islamic Republic, a country with enormous oil and natural gas reserves.
See this post by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett for more on China’s interests in Iran and its management of its “Persian Gulf dilemma.”
The Board also says that while additional sanctions must be pursued, “the door must remain open to negotiations.” But going down the sanctions path and engaging in good-faith diplomacy are mutually exclusive. It is wrongheaded to think that the Islamic Republic will negotiate with a country that is actively seeking to choke its economy. The idea that Iran might respond to sanctions by begging the United States to negotiate on the nuclear issue is pure fantasy.
Finally, the Times says near the end of its piece that “President Obama needs to speak out more strongly on behalf of Iranians who are peacefully seeking change. But the United States and its partners also must be very conscious of the fierce pride and independence of the Iranian people. Squaring that circle will be extremely hard, but it must be done.”
The problem with this statement is that negotiations cannot succeed if the Islamic Republic perceives that the United States is actively supporting its domestic opposition. It is wishful thinking to think that we can have it both ways.
– Ben Katcher