"Russia Disses Iran Sanctions"

by Martin Peretz | October 13, 2009

Well, that’s the way I read the headline in The Washington Post.

“Russia Dismisses Iran Sanctions” was how it was actually written, followed by “Russian Foreign Minister: Threats of Iran Sanctions Won’t Work.” The dispatch is from Mary Beth Sheridan, a savvy reporter to whom I’m becoming attached. There are slight differences between the Post piece and the report in the Times, “Russia Resists U.S. Position on Sanctions for Iran,” by Mark Landler and Clifford J. Levy. Then there was “US, Russia: Iran No sanctions yet” in The Jerusalem Post. I read the Post headline a bit differently: “No sanctions, period” is how it looked to me.

Mrs. Clinton can make a cupcake out of a turd, and she has. From the Jerusalem paper:

US President Barack Obama - who visited Russia in July - has vowed to “reset” US-Russia relations. On Tuesday, Clinton apologized for missing that meeting because of a broken elbow.

“But now both my elbow and our relationships are reset and we’re moving forward, which I greatly welcome,” she said.

She’s gotten a lot of mileage out of that elbow. All right, so it wasn’t a broken vertebra. Still, enough is enough.

And, no, Obama hasn’t reset the American relationship with Russia. He was taken for a ride. Maybe his vanity won’t let him admit it. But, believe me, the Russians know they have taken him (and us) for a big ride, indeed.

Here are the facts:

After Obama agreed to cancel the missile defense program for Poland and the Czech Republic, the president got Moscow to give him an inch. Maybe, they said, we’d have to move on tougher measures against Iran if Tehran doesn’t satisfy us on its nukes. “Hallelujah!” said the president and his entourage.

All of this good cheer is now over. Lavrov greeted Clinton in Moscow with the bad news: “At the current stage, all forces should be thrown at supporting the negotiating process. ... Threats, sanctions and threats of pressure in the current situation, we are convinced, would be counterproductive.”

Just before Hillary arrived in Moscow, she warned that America was impatient. With whom? With the Iranians, of course. But her impatience with Tehran will be useless unless we get impatient with Russia.

“We did not ask for anything today,” she said. “We reviewed the situation and where it stood, which I think was the appropriate timing for what this process entails.”

Of course, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. In fact, with the Russians, if you don’t demand and threaten a little, you get zero.

Hillary is a big traveler. A couple of days ago, she even got to address the parliament of Northern Ireland. Maybe the president will send her to the parliament in Guinea, where she can preach against rape. At least nobody expects anything to improve on that count.

Anyway, the lady is busy. “Clinton is also trying to launch a bi-national commission [with the Russians, I presume] that will encourage cooperation on subjects ranging from health to terrorism.” Yes, ma’am, another talk fest on terrorism is just what we need.

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