Russia and China rebuke Iran – but don't be deceived

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Last week in Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency issued a strongly worded resolution chastising Iran for its lack of co-operation over its nuclear programme.

For months, the IAEA has been negotiating with Iran to get its inspectors into a giant military complex approximately 40 miles outside Tehran, in Parchin.

For years, Western intelligence suspected that Iran was conducting military experiments for its nuclear programme at Parchin, including ones closely related to weaponisation. Evidence has been mounting in open sources as well, and the agency has deemed the material credible and consistent with all that is known about Iran’s programme.

Iran has demurred and dragged its feet in endless negotiations about opening up the site to inspections, while ostensibly demolishing buildings and cleaning up entire areas of Parchin in an extensive mopping-up operation which satellite imagery has amply documented.

As if this were not enough, Iran finally agreed to commence a new round of negotiations with the international community which, as in previous rounds, was quickly shipwrecked by Iran’s refusal to agree to meaningful measures.

It’s for these reasons that Iran’s traditional allies in the international arena, Russia and China, co-sponsored a tough resolution against Iran during the September board meeting of the IAEA.

The two countries have for some time blocked resolutions condemning Iran’s proxy, Syria, for its brutal repression at the UN Security Council. They have also criticised the West for its expansion of the sanctions regime against Iran, and refrained to support new UN resolutions against Iran.

Their support may thus come as a surprise. In fact, such a move may spare them the need to endorse tougher measures against Iran in more important forums — the Security Council first and foremost.

Meanwhile, the IAEA resolution failed to obtain the support of four non-aligned countries that sit on the board — Cuba voted against; and Ecuador, Egypt and Tunisia abstained.

For America, this spells trouble — its two Arab allies had always voted against Iran in the past, albeit grudgingly. Forget Russia and China, then. The abstention, despite overwhelming evidence of Iranian mischief in Parchin and its obdurate obstructionism, is a warning that isolating Iran in the region will be an increasingly arduous task for an American diplomacy already under pressure.

Emanuele Ottolenghi is a Senior Fellow at Washington’s Foundation for Defence of Democracies

Last updated: 11:22am, September 19 2012