At the UN, the United States is continuing its quixotic bid for another round of sanctions against Iran, even while U.S. officials know that no set of sanctions is likely to achieve its intended goal of persuading or forcing Iran to halt its nuclear program.
But several countries, including Brazil and Turkey, are trying to head off sanctions and to broker a deal that might allow productive talks to restart.
This weekend, President Lula of Brazil will visit Iran to meet with President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders. Lula will be in Tehran Sunday, at the same time that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan will be visiting. In the past, the Turks have offered to salvage an October deal between Iran and the UN’s P5 +1 big powers according to which Iran agreed to send the bulk of its enriched uranium to Russia and France for reprocessing. Turkey has offered its soil for the deal, seeking to overcome Iranian fears of handing its uranium to Russia, in an effort to get the October accord back on track. After initially agreeing to the October deal, Iran reneged, and the deal fell victim to the poisonous internal politics of post-election Iran.
According to Reuters, the United States is mildly skeptical of the Brazil-Turkish initiative. The service quotes a U.S. official saying, “I think we would view the Lula visit as perhaps the last big shot at engagement.” At the same time, however, Secretary of State Clinton called the Turkish foreign minister to throw cold water on the diplomatic effort by Turkey and Brazil, both of which oppose sanctions against Iran. Says Reuters:
“U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke by telephone with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and argued that Iran shows no sign of ceasing uranium enrichment as required by several Security Council resolutions.”
The Associated Press is much blunter, saying that Washington is trying to head off the Turkish-Brazilian initiative:
“The Obama administration moved Thursday to head off a joint Turkish-Brazilian effort that could help Iran avoid new United Nations sanctions over its suspect nuclear program.
“Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a blunt message to Turkey’s foreign minister, telling him that Iran is not serious about accepting international demands to prove its nuclear program peaceful. She said Tehran must face fresh penalties unless it does a quick about-face and complies.
“Clinton will likely give the same message to Brazil’s foreign minister ahead of a weekend visit to Tehran by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. U.S. officials think Iran will use the trip to try to sabotage their efforts to draft new U.N. Security Council sanctions. Turkey and Brazil are members of the council and are opposed to new sanctions.”
It’s as if the United States is so intent on installing sanctions on Iran – with President Obama speaking yesterday to President Medvedev of Russia and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council huddling yesterday in talks that Washington insists are urgent – that it won’t allow an actual diplomatic process to go forward!