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April 21, 2010
China and Iran not intimidated
China has preferred to let other governments take the public lead in resisting U.S. pressure for new sanctions on Iran. At times Germany and Russia have served that purpose. So, President Hu Jintao was happy to let Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva denounce sanctions after their private meeting on the sidelines of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) summit in Brasilia last week. President Lula had told President Barack Obama personally of Brazil's position earlier in the week at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington. President Hu said nothing about Iran, but merely smiled like a Cheshire cat as Brazilian officials said their country had an "affinity" with China on the Iran issue. Brazil currently holds one of the rotating seats on the UN Security Council.
A lead article in the April 20 issue of Global Times, a newspaper published by the Chinese Communist Party, indicated that Beijing is not intimidated by U.S. rhetoric about stopping Iran's nuclear program. The article cites a New York Times story about a memo from Defense Secretary Robert Gates that said the administration lacks "an effective long-range policy" for handling Iran's steady progress toward a nuclear capability. It also cited Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said at Columbia University on Sunday, "Military options have been on the table and remain on the table, but the engagements, the diplomatic, the sanctions, the finance; all of that needs to continue to lead the effort." This has been the U.S. approach for the last seven, fruitless years.
In contrast to American weakness and disarray, the Chinese story portrayed a strong and assertive Iranian regime.
Earlier during the weekend, addressing the Tehran Nuclear Summit, [Foreign Minister Manouchehr] Mottaki said Iran wanted direct talks with all UN Security Council members but one, with which it would only like to engage in indirect talks, without further elaborating.
One would have to assume the UNSC member to be ignored is the United States. The Tehran Nuclear Summit, which Iran claims attracted representatives from 60 countries, was meant as a counter to the NSS in Washington. At the meeting, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei denounced the U.S. as
The only nuclear criminal in the world..... Only the government of the United States of America has attacked the oppressed people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic bombs in an unfair and inhumane war.
Global Times also reported,
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Saturday reviewed a military parade after making a speech in which he insisted on defying the West, claiming that Iran is so powerful today that no country would dare attack it. "Iran's army is so mighty today that no enemy can have a foul thought of invading Iran's territory," Ahmadinejad said.
The Chinese article then cited Wang Feng, a researcher at the Institute of West Asia and Africa at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), who argued,
Obama has drawn himself into a dilemma, as he has lost the best time to host talks, due to domestic pressure, as a large number of US residents oppose improving relations with Iran, while Obama himself prefers to amend the situation.
In other words, the American president is not truly committed to confronting Iran, but would like a cut a deal. Not exactly the posture that will convince China, Russia, Brazil or other UNSC members that they need to worry about defying Washington on sanctions.
The Chinese article did, however, contain one dissenting voice, that of Yin Gang, an expert on Middle-East issues at CASS, who predicted.
If political mediation does not resolve the Iranian nuclear issue in the long term, military actions seem to be inevitable.
Yin's logic is impeccable, but decisions are made by people. The leaders in Beijing and Tehran don't think the leaders in Washington are going to act. Therefore, there is no need for policy to change in either China or Iran.