China continuing to play diplomatic games on Iran

Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in an interview aired Sunday that "It would be almost literally irresponsible if CENTCOM were not to have been thinking about the various 'what ifs' and to make plans for a whole variety of different contingencies." He did not elaborate on the plans, but his statement got the attention of Iran's Chinese backers. 

In standard orchestrated fashion, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Jiang Yu's Regular was asked about Gen. Petraeus' statement at his January 12 press conference. He responded:

 

China always believes that the Iranian nuclear issue should be peacefully resolved through diplomatic negotiation so as to safeguard the effectiveness of the international non-proliferation regime as well as peace and stability in the Middle East. China hopes that relevant parties step up diplomatic efforts, maintain and advance dialogue in a bid to vigorously seek for a comprehensive, long-term and proper settlement of the issue.

 

He also said he did not know if China would attend the next meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) and Germany to discuss Iranian policy. The United States is expected the push for more sanctions on Iran at the meeting, something China opposes. China did not attend the Five + One meeting held in November. Beijing's notion of what is the "proper settlement" of the Iran nuclear issue is very different than that of the United States.

 

China chairs the UNSC during January and has already used that position to block the U.S. bringing a new initiative on sanctions forward in that body. At that time, UN envoy Zhang Yesui said, "This is not the right time or right moment for sanctions because the diplomatic efforts are still going on." Spokesman Jiang repeated this line at his press conference. Negotiations regarding the Iranian nuclear program have been held in several forms and venues since 2003. Tehran, with Chinese diplomatic and material support, has bulled through the talks while steadily advancing its nuclear weapons research and its development of long-rang ballistic missiles.

 

Beijing and Tehran both understand that talking is for the U.S. and its Western allies an alternative to taking action. Words are cheap and meaningless, as China demonstrated when it supported a resolution from the International Atomic Energy Agency in November critical of Iranian behavior. Since the resolution contained no mandate for action, Beijing could accept it and use it to keep matters on a diplomatic track. China will, however, block any steps that would threaten the Tehran regime as it struggles to stay in power. Beijing measures the "effectiveness" of the non-proliferation process by how well it can be used to hamstring the West.

 

President Barack Obama continues to say that it would be unacceptable for Iran to develop a nuclear weapons capability, but his reliance on China to constrain Tehran is as much a failure today as it was during the Bush Administration. Yet, to move beyond this approach seems to be outside the president's comfort zone. Thus, Gen. Petraeus's work remains only "contingency" planning.


Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in an interview aired Sunday that "It would be almost literally irresponsible if CENTCOM were not to have been thinking about the various 'what ifs' and to make plans for a whole variety of different contingencies." He did not elaborate on the plans, but his statement got the attention of Iran's Chinese backers.

 

In standard orchestrated fashion, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Jiang Yu's Regular was asked about Gen. Petraeus' statement at his January 12 press conference. He responded:

 

China always believes that the Iranian nuclear issue should be peacefully resolved through diplomatic negotiation so as to safeguard the effectiveness of the international non-proliferation regime as well as peace and stability in the Middle East. China hopes that relevant parties step up diplomatic efforts, maintain and advance dialogue in a bid to vigorously seek for a comprehensive, long-term and proper settlement of the issue.

 

He also said he did not know if China would attend the next meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) and Germany to discuss Iranian policy. The United States is expected the push for more sanctions on Iran at the meeting, something China opposes. China did not attend the Five + One meeting held in November. Beijing's notion of what is the "proper settlement" of the Iran nuclear issue is very different than that of the United States.

 

China chairs the UNSC during January and has already used that position to block the U.S. bringing a new initiative on sanctions forward in that body. At that time, UN envoy Zhang Yesui said, "This is not the right time or right moment for sanctions because the diplomatic efforts are still going on." Spokesman Jiang repeated this line at his press conference. Negotiations regarding the Iranian nuclear program have been held in several forms and venues since 2003. Tehran, with Chinese diplomatic and material support, has bulled through the talks while steadily advancing its nuclear weapons research and its development of long-rang ballistic missiles.

 

Beijing and Tehran both understand that talking is for the U.S. and its Western allies an alternative to taking action. Words are cheap and meaningless, as China demonstrated when it supported a resolution from the International Atomic Energy Agency in November critical of Iranian behavior. Since the resolution contained no mandate for action, Beijing could accept it and use it to keep matters on a diplomatic track. China will, however, block any steps that would threaten the Tehran regime as it struggles to stay in power. Beijing measures the "effectiveness" of the non-proliferation process by how well it can be used to hamstring the West.

 

President Barack Obama continues to say that it would be unacceptable for Iran to develop a nuclear weapons capability, but his reliance on China to constrain Tehran is as much a failure today as it was during the Bush Administration. Yet, to move beyond this approach seems to be outside the president's comfort zone. Thus, Gen. Petraeus's work remains only "contingency" planning.