Obama Claims ‘Success’ in Isolating Iran, Although China and Others Still Resist Sanctions

By Patrick Goodenough | March 18, 2010 | 5:15 AM EDT

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden attend a St. Patrick's Day reception in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday, March 17, 2010. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(CNSNews.com) – President Obama claimed Wednesday that his efforts to win international support against Iran over its nuclear activities have been successful, despite no sign from China, a permanent U.N. Security Council member, that it has shifted its opposition to sanctions.
Winning support for a sanctions resolution from at least three other Security Council members – Turkey, Lebanon and Brazil – remains an uphill battle for the U.S. and its allies too.
“It is one of our highest priorities to make sure that Iran doesn’t possess a nuclear weapon,” Obama told Fox News in an interview Wednesday. “That is why I have worked so hard to mobilize the international community, successfully, to isolate Iran,” he added, emphasizing the word “successfully.”
“The Iranian government has been more concerned about preventing their people from exercising their democratic and human rights than trying to solve this problem diplomatically,” the president continued. “That’s why we’re going to go after aggressive sanctions.”
Hours before the interview was aired, China’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, He Yafei, told reporters in the Swiss city that sanctions against Iran would not work.
“I think the door of compromise through negotiations, the door of diplomacy is not closed,” he said.
“We need to exhaust every avenue before we decide on whether we should have new additional sanction measures,” added the envoy, who served as Beijing’s vice foreign minister before taking up the Geneva post this month.
The international community, first in the shape of the E.U.3 (Britain, France and Germany) and later as the so-called P5+1 (Security Council permanent members United States, China, Britain, France and Russia, plus Germany) have been trying to negotiate a resolution to the nuclear standoff since 2003.
Three sets of relatively mild Security Council sanctions were imposed between 2006 and 2008 to no avail, and the most recent Obama administration deadline for Iran to cooperate or face “tough” new sanctions passed more than 75 days ago.
As a veto-wielding Security Council member, China’s position is pivotal.

U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman delivers a speech in Beijing on Thursday, March 18, 2010. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband visited Beijing this week to urge a change of heart from the Chinese. But his host, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi reiterated after their talks that sanctions were not the solution, the official China Daily reported.
In a speech in Beijing on Thursday, U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman appealed to China not to allow bilateral disputes to get in the way of cooperation in areas like the Iran nuclear issue.
In Tehran, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Western officials’ visits to China had clearly been ineffective, as “China is independent enough not to be swayed by Western policies to pressurize Iran.”
Meanwhile Turkey, among the more prominent of the council’s 10 non-permanent members, has pledged to support Iran in international forums.
Standing alongside visiting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in London Tuesday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said it was his belief further Security Council sanctions should be imposed. In his remarks moments later, however, Erdogan stressed “the importance of a diplomatic solution.”
In a speech in Washington Wednesday, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon voiced the hope that Turkey would come round.
“With respect to Iran, while the international community has sought to present a single, coordinated message to Iran’s government, Turkey has at times sounded a different note,” he said.
Gordon said it was “vitally important that we avoid actions that could potentially undermine or complicate our shared goal of a peaceful diplomatic resolution of this issue.”
Last November, when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)  board of governors voted on a resolution condemning Iran for building a second uranium enrichment plant, calling for a halt to the work, and referring the matter to the Security Council, Turkey and another current Security Council member, Brazil both abstained – to Washington’s disappointment.
During a visit to Brazil by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that same month, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva expressed his opposition to further sanctions.
And Lebanon, another Security Council member, has also signaled support for Iran.
The other seven non-permanent Council members are Gabon, Nigeria, Uganda, Japan, Mexico, Austria and Bosnia. Gabon, Nigeria and Uganda – like Turkey and Lebanon – are fellow members with Iran in the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and face pressure at least to abstain.
To pass, a Security Council resolution requires nine affirmative votes in total, and no veto from any of the five permanent members.
Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow