Monday, June 05, 2006

Another U.N. moment?

In watching Fox News Sunday this week, I was drawn to one specific point, one that came up first with Secretary of State Rice and again in the roundtable on the point of this weeks diplomatic 'shift' on Iran. First, from Chris Wallace's conversation with Ms. Rice:

WALLACE: You keep talking about, both this week and also this morning, the fact that this is not just a U.S. offer. This is a world offer. I want to talk to you about how much agreement there is.

Have the five other nations who made this offer -- and specifically, I'm talking about Russia and China -- have they made a specific commitment to impose sanctions if Iran rejects this offer?

RICE: Well, I think you saw in what Margaret Beckett said, the British foreign secretary, when she chaired this meeting, that the international community has developed two paths, not one, two paths, one path with a set of very positive incentives; another, the path that the international community would have to go. As she put it, we would have to go back to the Security Council. There would be no other option.

Now, we have agreed as a diplomatic matter to talk about neither of those paths in detail. I think that only makes sense. It's only fair that Iran should have the first crack, if you will, at seeing what is there.

But there should be no confusion, and I think there should be no confusion given what was said out of this meeting, that there are two very clear paths.

WALLACE: Well, but I want to ask you about that, because I read also what the foreign secretary, Beckett, said and she was talking about, you know, we'll have to go back to the U.N. Security Council. That's pretty broad.

Do you have a specific commitment from China and Russia that they will impose sanctions?

RICE: Chris, we are absolutely satisfied with the commitments of our allies to a robust path in the Security Council should this not work. But we are not going to talk about what is on either of those paths because it's very important now to give this some time to work.

The Iranians shouldn't have to read in the newspaper what is being offered to them. They do deserve the opportunity to hear that directly from the European envoy who will go, and that's what we're going to do.

Then in the roundtable discussion:

HUME: They're not trying to coax them to the table. That's not what's happening here. What is happening here is they've been given an offer of sorts. There will be no talking unless and until Iran does something the administration really does not expect at this point it will do.

And if it did it, it would be such a total victory that whether we then sat down with them would be secondary.

PAIGE: But if you want to show good faith that you're willing to try diplomatic measures so that when you go to sanctions or even military action, your allies will be with you, it does matter what's happening now.

HUME: Well, the question isn't whether the allies will be with us in the future. The question is whether they're really with us now. And the administration believes that everybody in the Perm Five in the Security Council is either willing by acquiescing or favoring taking Iran before the Security Council and applying sanctions.

Now, of course, sanctions remains, obviously, to be seen. So my sense about this is that the U.S. hasn't gone soft here, and it puts -- this is designed simply to put Iran on the spot.

WALLACE: Also on the panel today, Bill Kristol.

Let me ask you the same question I was asking Secretary of State Rice. How confident are you that if Iran -- if Brit's right and Iran rejects this precondition, doesn't sit down to talks, that the Europeans, Russia and China are all on board to impose sanctions?

And that is 'it' in a nutshell. If and when push comes to shove at the U.N. sometime in the near future on the question of Iran, what will we have?

Have we a breakthrough, a sort of meeting of the Allied minds as it were or are we facing another U.N. moment where the US will be hung out to dry in the self-interests of Russia, China and Europe? I don't know and I'm frankly afraid to guess.

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