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Monday, September 24, 2007

France and U.S. in Agreement About Sanctions on Iran

With all the fuss about Ahmadinejad being in America and his speaking at Columbia University, the United States and France are keeping our eye on the ball, which is keeping Iran from obatining nuclear weapons.

Last week US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns chaired talks discussing further sanctions won Iran, which Burns called "constructive".

That will be followed up Wednesday and Thursday with the six powers, the Security Council's permanent members China, France, Russia, Britain, the European Union and the United States, plus Germany. (Source)

The U.S. and France are in full agreement, a far cry from when Chirac was president of France, no surprise that China and Russia, the weak links, are in disagreement with the type of sanctions that should follow up the two previous rounds of sanctions, which due to them specifically, were so weakened they were ineffective.

“I think it’s first important to note that we have set out a diplomatic path that includes negotiation as the preferred means by which to resolve this issue,” Ms. Rice said at a joint news conference with her French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner.

On Sunday, Mr. Kouchner kicked up a small diplomatic storm when he raised the possibility of war with Iran. He subsequently moderated his statements and dropped references to war. Ms. Rice noted that a diplomatic league of the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany had offered “a very, very good package of initiatives that Iran could take up if it wished to stop its enrichment and reprocessing activity.”

But she said, “We will seek further resolutions in the U.N. Security Council should Iran not take up the negotiating track.”

Toward that end, the Foreign Ministry political directors from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia met at the State Department on Friday with R. Nicholas Burns, the United States under secretary of state for political affairs, to press ahead on a possible third Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Iran. After the meeting, Mr. Burns issued a statement on behalf of the six officials that “reaffirmed their commitment to maintain a dual-track approach on Iran’s nuclear activities.”

The discussions on Friday “were serious and constructive,” the statement said. The officials “had a detailed discussion of the elements of a new United Nations Security Council resolution, as well as possibilities of continued dialogue with Iran.”

Supporters of new sanctions were buoyed by a decision at the conclusion of Friday’s meeting to schedule another working session next week. That meeting is “to prepare recommendations” for a high-level conference next Friday, at which Ms. Rice and her five ministerial counterparts will discuss the potential for a new sanctions resolution.

Although senior officials from all six nations involved in the sanctions talks agreed on the urgency of preventing Iran from going nuclear, deep disagreements remained over the speed of imposing new sanctions, and on how deeply they should cut into the Iranian economy.

Russia and China are the most reluctant to move ahead, while the United States is pushing for faster action. Iranian officials say their nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

More from the AP on the improved relations between the U.S. and France:

Since taking power in May, Kouchner's boss, President Nicolas Sarkozy, has set a very different tone of cooperation with the United States than that of his predecessor, Jacques Chirac. But Kouchner's visit and France's recent moves on Iran seemed to illustrate that the change was more than in tone.

"We know that France, Europe and the United States have recently gone through one of the most strained periods in the history of their relations," Kouchner said in a speech Thursday, referring to differences over the U.S.-led war in Iraq. "We have put this behind us."

On Friday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also acknowledged the transformation.

"It's an excellent relationship," she said while standing next to Kouchner after a meeting and lunch. "I think there are many, many things that France and the United States are going to be able to do together."

On what to do about Iran, she said, the two countries agreed entirely on the problem and how to deal with it. Kouchner's rhetoric, in fact, could not have been better formulated by a White House speechwriter to fit Washington's policy.

"To those who say that we should handle Iran with kid gloves, since it could destabilize the region, I say this: Look at its adventurism today, and imagine what it would be like if Tehran thought itself one day protected by a nuclear umbrella," he said in his speech.

Reports from The Politico tells us that President Bush met with Norman Podhoretz for roughly 45 minutes at the White House. The discussion was about what to do about Iran

The meeting was not on the president’s public schedule.

Rove was silent throughout, though he took notes. The president listened diligently, Podhoretz said as he recounted the conversation months later, but he “didn’t tip his hand.”

“I did say to [the president], that people ask: Why are you spending all this time negotiating sanctions? Time is passing. I said, my friend [Robert] Kagan wrote a column which he said you were giving ‘futility its chance.’ And both he and Karl Rove burst out laughing.

“It struck me,” Podhoretz added, “that if they really believed that there was a chance for these negotiations and sanctions to work, they would not have laughed. They would have got their backs up and said, ‘No, no, it’s not futile, there’s a very good chance.’ ”

Podhoretz walked out of the meeting neither deterred nor assured the president would attack the Persian state.

Yet prior to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York for the United Nations’ General Assembly, Podhoretz said he believes that “Bush is going to hit” Iran before the end of his presidency.

His assumption is based on intellectual instinct.

If Podhoretz were merely another old man of the chattering class, his intellectual instincts would hardly be worth pondering. But Podhoretz, after a half-century in argument, remains fiercely relevant.

He is a senior foreign policy adviser to Republican front-runner Rudy Giuliani. He participates in weekly conference calls with the campaign and says he is in constant contact via e-mail with the foreign policy team. The meeting with the president was at Podhoretz’s request.

Frankly, I would have laughed also because it is obvious that China and Russia will not agree to any type of sanctions that will be effective but Bush is in a spot where he must run through all diplomatic channels before we can do anything about Iran, even while knowing the lunatic from Iran will not stop until he has a nuclear weapon, which even Russia and China admit is unacceptable.

They speak so very well out of both sides of their mouths.

Russia and China need to ask themselves a serious question here and that is: "Is harsh, effective sanctions against Iran better than someone having to commit massive air strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities?"

That should be a no brainer, but for some reason, it isn't as of yet for those two countries.

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