News and views relevant to U.S.-Iran relations for September 16.
- Reuters: Louis Charbonneau reports on calls from the U.S., British and French envoys to the UN to expedite the formation a UN panel to monitor Iran’s compliance with sanctions. “We are concerned by the delay in setting up the panel, and we urge a renewed focus to enable this body to become operational as soon as possible,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told the Security Council during a meeting on Iran. The council had agreed in June to set up an expert panel to regularly report on the sanctions. Rice said that Iran has violated that sanctions and has repeatedly tried to export arms and “continues to engage in activities related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”
- Forbes: Vice President of the hawkish American Foreign Policy Council, Ilan Berman, warns that if the U.S. or Israel is compelled to use force against Iran, “China will shoulder at least part of the blame.” Berman says that while both UN and U.S. unilateral sanctions have made an impact, Chinese oil, gas and railroad deals with Iran threatens to undermine the effects of international sanctions. The solution, argues Berman, might lie in prohibiting U.S. contracts with certain Chinese companies or denying loans from U.S. institutions for companies which engage in trade with Iran. He concludes, “[The U.S.] can have a consolidated international economic front that stands a prayer of derailing Iran’s nuclear drive, or it can have a non-confrontational relationship with China. It cannot, however, have both.”
- Los Angeles Times: As hawks continue to focus on countries that have trade and nuclear deals with Iran, John Bolton hones in on Venezuela. “[Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez’s growing closeness with Russia and Iran on nuclear matters should be our greatest concern,” writes the former Bush Administration ambassador to the UN. He points to Venezuela’s sale of refined petroleum products to Iran, helping the latter work around sanctions; unsubstantiated reports of Hezbollah using Venezuela as a base; and Iran’s “helping [Venezuela] develop its uranium reserves.” He says the nuclear cooperation “may signal a dangerous clandestine nuclear weapons effort, perhaps as a surrogate for Iran, as has been true elsewhere, such as in Syria.”
- NBC News: In a sometimes contentious interview with NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that recent IAEA pressure on Iran was “part of the hostility of the United States against our people.” Just ahead of his visit to New York next week for the UN General Assembly, Ahmadinejad held forth on many topics, including Obama’s intention to thaw hostilities with Iran: “We think maybe President Obama wants to do something, but there are pressures– pressure groups in the United States who do not allow him to do so,” he said, later specifically referencing “Zionists.” While Ahmadinejad welcomed warming relations with the U.S., he said that sanctions were useless: “We in Iran are in a position to meet our own requirements.”