2009+4. Has anything really changed?
The following article by Anne Bayefsky originally appeared in National Review Online and was reprinted, in part, on August 3, 2009 in jewishinfoNews.
“President Barack Obama has decided to let Iran acquire nuclear arms. Unless Israel acts in self-defense against the president’s wishes, the world’s most dangerous regime will command the world’s most dangerous weapon.
Notwithstanding the White House’s misinformation campaign to the contrary, the evidence of the president’s agenda is incontrovertible.”
Number one. Obama knows that the U.N. will not prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb. In June 2003 the International Atomic Energy Agency first reported that Iran was breaching its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Six years and five minimalist Security Council resolutions later, the adoption of serious sanctions by the council remains a non-starter. Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said in early July that more sanctions would be “counter-productive.” The Tehran Times reported on July 28 that the Iranian nuclear plant at Bushehr — built by Russia’s nuclear-power corporation and completed in March — will be operational by the end of September. The latest development in burgeoning Chinese-Iranian ties was an Iranian July 13 announcement that China has agreed to invest $40 billion to increase Iran’s gasoline-refining capacity — a move that would hardly be an incentive to buy into new sanctions.
Number two. Heavy-duty sanctions imposed beyond the U.N. would require a serious and prompt push by the E-3 — France, the United Kingdom, and Germany. But Germany has other priorities. In May, the Iranians were able to coo, “around 50 German firms have their own branch offices in Iran and more than 12,000 firms have trade representatives in the country. . . . With some $5.5 billion annual trade, Germany is Iran’s major European trading partner and the third worldwide.” Not surprisingly, on July 2, German chancellor Angela Merkel championed “keeping open the possibility of talks on Iran’s nuclear program.” British foreign secretary David Miliband described the EU hurry-up-and-wait preference while in Washington on July 29: “I think it’s very important to say that on the important nuclear question, the ball is in Iran’s court. And as soon as the new government is formed in Tehran, we look forward to that government addressing . . . the clear package that was put to Iran some 15 or 16 months ago.”
Number three. President Obama himself is refusing to back strong, immediate sanctions in response to Iran’s umpteen violations of the NPT and human rights. On the contrary, after the July 10 G-8 meeting, he declared: “This notion that we were trying to get sanctions . . . is not accurate.” Defense Secretary Robert Gates reiterated on July 27 that sanctions are still not on Obama’s agenda. All he could say was that “if the engagement process is not successful, the United States is prepared to press for significant additional sanctions.”
Number four. Obama’s only concrete plan for dealing with what even Gates has called “the greatest current threat to global security” is more talk. Without an end date. On May 18, Obama declared that deadlines would be “artificial.” This is how he explained the snail’s pace: “My expectation would be that if we can begin discussions soon, shortly after the Iranian elections, we should have a fairly good sense by the end of the year as to whether they are moving in the right direction . . . That doesn’t mean every issue would be resolved by that point.” On July 10, the president said: “We will take stock of Iran’s progress when we see each other this September at the G20 meeting.” On July 27 in Israel, Gates explained it this way: “I think that the president is certainly anticipating or hoping for some kind of response this fall, perhaps by the time of the U.N. General Assembly.” So here’s the Obama plan: Maybe by the end of the year he will have some idea sort of where he is going, and in the meantime he is keeping his fingers crossed and looking forward to stock-taking.
Worse, the potential year-end review of the yakkety-yak policy was based on the premise that the yakking had already started. On May 18, the president maintained that the Iranian “elections will be completed in June, and we are hopeful that, at that point, there is going to be a serious process of engagement.” Two months of silence later, on July 23, Secretary Clinton admitted: “Well, we haven’t had any response. So we’ve certainly reached out. We’ve made it clear that that’s what we would be willing to do even now.”
Clinton has spun Iranian dithering not as an abysmal American miscalculation of Iranian interests but as a result of the mullahs’ being too busy. While in Bangkok on July 22 and 23 she pontificated: “The door is open to what we would like to see as a one-on-one engagement with Iran. But they are so preoccupied right now.” And again: “The internal debates going on within Iran have made it difficult, if not impossible, for them to pursue any diplomatic engagement . . . I don’t think that they have any capacity to make that kind of decision right now.” Yes, brutal suppression takes time — but somehow, finding the hours and capacity for enriching uranium hasn’t been a problem. . .
Professor A.F. Bayefsky, B.A., M.A., LL.B., M.Litt. (Oxon.), is a Professor at York University, Toronto, Canada, and a Barrister and Solicitor, Ontario Bar. She is also an Adjunct Professor at Touro College in New York. Professor Bayefsky is the recipient of Canada’s preeminent human rights research fellowship, the Bora Laskin National Fellowship in Human Rights Research. She is currently a member of the International Law Association Committee on International Human Rights Law and Practice, and Editor-in-Chief of the Series “Refugees and Human Rights”, published by Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague.