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Optimism Lost: Security Council Deadlocked on Iran

As the Security Council’s possession of the Iranian nuclear crisis spills into its third week without unanimity, China and Russia proclaimed that they remain united in the two countries’ approach to resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis. Vladmir Putin had been in China for talks since early in the week. Said China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang, “Under current circumstances, Russia’s proposal is a helpful way to break the impasse. We call on all parties concerned to step up their negotiations and demonstrate flexibility.”

The Chinese and the Russians state that they do not want any action from the security council on Iran, fearing that any firm UNSC action would result in Iran completely abandoning IAEA contact. Wang Guangya, China’s UN ambassador, seemed to reaffirm this message of non-action in New York when he said, “From the beginning I proposed that if the Security Council is to support IAEA authority, it is to have a brief political statement. Support the IAEA, call on Iranians to cooperate, then put some pressure.”

This is a curious statement, though not new by any means. The IAEA’s authority is derived from its acceptance by other nations and the enforcement mechanism embodied only by UN Security Council measures. It has been clearly demonstrated that Iran has no confidence in the IAEA nor desire to cooperate with them. Any proclamation of any other nations in ”support IAEA authority” rings hollow to the most important nation to recognize such, Iran. To stand tall and announce support for an IAEA that was powerless to affect Iranian outcomes previously without providing concrete Security Council enforcement is self-defeating and cyclical.

In light of the current stalemate on China and Russia’s differing approaches, Britain and France are considering changing strategies, in what seems the first hint of acknowledgment of a Security Council impasse.

The Europeans, with American support, are thinking about forcing a Security Council vote, forcing not only China and Russia, but all 15 nations on the council, to put their money where their mouths are. The consideration is to potentially move from a UN Security Council presidential statement, which is stronger and requires unanimity among the 15 members, and change to a Security Council resolution, which simply requires a majority vote without veto but carries less weight.

The French Ambassador, Jean-Marc de La Sabliere still publicly holds out hope of a vote of unanimity, saying yesterday, “That’s my assessment. It is still possible.” Privately, however, he surely harbors more doubt than optimism.

Any measure from the Security Council with unanimous support will be watered down to the point of ineffectiveness. That was always believed to be so. It had only been the public proclamations of optimism from unexpected sources that had raised hopes, such as that from US Ambassador John Bolton, not known to mince words for public consumption.

But that optimism seems to be waning and words to that effect are no longer being heard from Bolton. Instead, heard is the talk of forcing a vote, changing from a ‘statement’ to a ‘resolution’ and from unanimity to majority.

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May I provide a few quotes, stolen of course, from Neptunus Lex, on the current Iranian events:

“Much work remains to be done before we can announce our total failure to make any progress.”

“‘Status quo,’ as you know, is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in…’” Attributed to former President Ronald Reagan

“The chance of success in these talks is the same as the number of “R’s” in ‘fat chance…’” GS-15 (SHAPE)

I can't think of more profound ways of commenting on this situation. How long will it take us to come to terms?