Despite insistences from US diplomat Glyn Davies only days ago that America was willing to give Iran “some space” while it made its decision on a draft third-party enrichment deal, the US is again threatening new sanctions against Iran if it doesn’t quickly approve the deal.
“Unfortunately, so far at least, Iran appears to have been unable to say yes to what everyone acknowledges is a creative and constructive approach,” President Obama declared, warning “we are running out of time with respect to that approach.”
Iran appears to approve of a third party enrichment deal in principle, indeed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the one who proposed the idea in September. But some Iranian officials see the existing draft as unacceptable, citing France’s involvement. Ambassador Davies insisted that the US understood Iran had a big decision to make and was willing to give them time.
And indeed there seems to be little reason for urgency. Iran has stopped expanding its civilian enrichment program in a move diplomats see as a conciliatory move to help in the negotiations. Several high profile Iranian officials, including the head of the military, have spoken favorably of the deal.
Rather the time constraints aren’t a function of Iran’s behavior, but of America’s press for sanctions, which never really stopped during negotiations. Congress has been pressing forward with sanctions with President Obama’s approval, but has been limited in what it can do without UN Security Council backing.
Today’s sudden outburst of bellicosity came in a midst of a meeting with Russian President Medvedev, one of the opponents of previously proposed sanctions, and Medvedev hinted at Russian support. There may be no reasonable justification for a sanction push now, since it is sure to torpedo whatever momentum in favor of the deal exists in Iran’s government, but if Russia is on board the administration may feel that it should get new sanctions while the getting is good.