The U.N. Security Council, by a 12 to 2 vote, approved a new set of sanctions on Iran that fall short of U.S. and Israeli expectations. After all, it wasn't only so long ago that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged to mobilize the international community behind "crippling" sanctions that might prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. The new UN sanctions fall short of "crippling" by a country mile. For example, they shy away from an embargo on Iran gasoline imports that might have made Iran's leaders think twice. Even so, the administration couldn't even get Turkey and Brazil to abstain -- two countries President Obama has courted assiduously. Instead, they openly broke with Washington and voted "no."
So where do we go from here?
After nearly a year and a half of Obama's diplomacy, the U.S. has exhausted the possibilities it could expect from the UN in trying to halt Iran's drive to join the nuclear club. Russia and China -- wielding veto power -- won't allow stronger action against Iran. And while Obama gave it his all in pursuing only the UN track over these long months, Iran gained precious time to enrich uranium to higher levels. Even the UN's nuclear watchdog now acknowledges that Iran already has sufficient nuclear fuel for two bombs.
There has been talk that the administration -- after exhausting the UN channel -- will now move to assemble a "coalition of the willing" with perhaps Canada and the European Union to come up with tougher, meaningful sanctions. The EU, according to some reports, also has been waiting to move in that direction once the UN proved itself unable to rise to the task. This would seem Obama's only remaining option, while the clock ticks inexorably toward Iran joining North Korea as a rogue state with nuclear -weapon arsenals and a capacity to share such weapons with non-state, terrorist groups.
The hour is late, perhaps too late. Iran will not be shaken by the Security Council's timid performance. Obama has consumed precious time -- and failed to get anything meaningful form the UN. So what does he do now?