Will Tehran Accept Beijing’s Support?

Whatever your opinion of Iran’s nuclear case, one thing is clear: Tehran is doing much to undermine its own case by its inept diplomacy.

As Iran’s top nuclear negotiator visits China in the context of intense U.S. pressure on China to fall in line and continuing Israeli threats of aggression against Iran and rising U.S. threats and arms stockpiling in the region around Iran, the question arises:

Might Iran decide to take advantage of China’s delicately balanced diplomatic support by offering China something it can present to the world as “progress?”

I posed the same question last fall when Ahmadinejad visited another diplomatic supporter, Turkey. Then, as seems to be Tehran’s style, it proved unwilling to offer its supporter any help. Eventually, just daring the West to take action may well cause Iran great harm. With Beijing, Ankara, Brazilia, Moscow, and perhaps Tokyo all trying to hold open the door for Tehran’s graceful exit from a costly showdown with an increasingly belligerent Washington, one wonders when Tehran might learn to avoid dropping rocks on its own feet.
Despite Western propaganda about Iran the “nuclear rogue state” (a myth most recently propagated by the highly biased New York Times), in fact it is hard to make a case that Tehran has done anything illegal on the nuclear front. A few details are debatable but it has essentially adhered scrupulously to the letter (albeit not the spirit) of the law, in stark contrast to Israel, which truly is a nuclear rogue. Thus, Iran does not have to play hardball and, indeed, will likely be seen by historians as having harmed its own cause enormously by doing so. It risks disaster, but even if it wins, given the strength of its case that it is only doing what it has a right to do and given the fact that its international status is improving on other grounds as a result of the rise of the Shi’a in Iraq and Israel’s endless series of self-inflicted image problems, there is a much easier road to international fame than baiting the Western bull. It is Iran’s misfortune that its politicians demonstrate so little skill at diplomacy.
So the question remains: while in China, will they once again go out of their way to slap their own friends in the face?
Gloating to the world by putting words into Beijing’s mouth that it “supports the Iranian position” is hardly the way either to impress the world or please its Chinese supporters.
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2 comments on “Will Tehran Accept Beijing’s Support?

  1. I believe Iran should not give in to the bullying and pressure of USA and Israel. If Iran gives an inch to USA-Israel, they would want a mile. Even if Iran were to stop all uranium enrichment and to give up all its technological research and advancements, USA-Israel will find another excuse to harass and bully Iran. These pressures exerted on Iran by USA and Israel have nothing to do with uranium enrichment but has everything to do with “regime change” and establishing a puppet government in Iran. USA and Israel are like bullies in a neighborhood who get worse day by day until people stand up to the bully and stop him.

    China, Turkey, Brazil and Russia should stand up united with Iran to the bullies and let them know clearly that Iran has the right to enrich uranium for civilian use in Iran and that is exactly what Iran is doing and should start pressuring USA and Israel with more force to give up their nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. These countries are as soft as marshmallows trying to please demands of USA-Israel.

    Western warmongering politicians are the ones demonstrating so little skill at diplomacy, not Iran. Iran's politicians are standing up for their rights and principles.

  2. Veronica, I'm quite sympathetic to the argument you make. Yes, it does appear that Washington would just demand more if Tehran conceded anything.

    But even if one assumes that the subordination of Iran to the U.S.-led international system rather than the curbing of Iranian nuclear ambitions is Washington's goal, I would argue that Tehran should still contemplate the effectiveness of its tactics.

    My point here is not that Tehran could persuade Washington to change but that it could persuade some others in the world to change and that it could facilitate the efforts of those such as Ankara, Moscow, Brasilia, and Beijing that are searching for a compromise.

    The issue for Tehran is not truly “oneupmanship” but survival and independence. Being “right” but getting attacked is failure for the Iranian people (perhaps not for some particular politician).

    If I were an Iranian patriot, I would severely criticize Tehran for doing a very poor job of international coalition-building.

    I should note that Ahmadinejad's recent offer of a compromise on the medical uranium issue weakens my argument. That was a good tactical move. However, it could perhaps have been framed more effectively by coordinating with Moscow and Beijing. A joint statement of some minor shift on the terms of the exchange that allowed Beijing, say, to take credit for achieving a “compromise” would strengthen Tehran's position, would it not?

    The question of whether or not Beijing or Moscow might be willing to cooperate is worth asking. I certainly do not know the answer, but the public remarks of both Chinese and Russian leaders suggests to me that they would be likely to leap at the chance.

    If anyone has insight into the calculations being made in either of these capitals on the Iran nuclear issue, by all means send a comment!

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