If anybody thought that this week's report by the International Atomic Energy Agency would be a game changer in terms of international efforts to compel Iran to desist from its nuclear weapons program, the Russian and Chinese reactions furnish a reality check.
Russia has ruled out stiffer sanctions against Iran. Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov says, using a new tack, that "any additional sanctions against Iran would be perceived by the international community as an instrument for regime change in Tehran."
It sounds as though this is Russia's payback for what occurred in Libya where the opening wedge for NATO intervention against the Qaddafi regime in Libya was the imposition of international sanctions. It is almost as if the Minister is saying that since NATO bypassed Russia on Libya, the world cannot expect Russia to help with Iran unless it can be made worth their while on some other issue.
Gatilov urged the United States to persevere with the policy announced by President Obama when he promised to “sit down and talk” with enemies of the United States, as opposed to silently provoking them. Sanctions ran counter to a policy oriented on establishing a dialogue, he implied.
Russian television hosted an Iranian spokesperson who belittled the IAEA report.
President Dmitry Medvedev, on a visit to Berlin, appeared to warn Israel more than Iran "The militant statements that Israel or somebody else is ready to use violence against Iran or against another country in the Middle East … is extremely dangerous rhetoric.”
Finally, the Russian Ministry questioned the political motivations of the report. China and Russia had tried to block publication of the report.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei, while calling for Iranian flexibility and sincerity, opposes any use of force and also advocated continuing dialogue. China purchases a quarter of its oil from Iran and therefore the likelihood that it would apply sanctions to the Iranian oil industry is quite remote.
The Russian and Chinese position essentially renders the British and German willingness to press for additional sanctions meaningless. British foreign Secretary William Hague is pressing for a "negotiated solution" but the Iranians have already said there's nothing to negotiate and an approach to the UN Security Council will meet the Russian Chinese brick wall
While former President Bush's Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice urged increased pressure to bring about regime change in Iran, the Obama administration also does not appear to be overly exerting itself on the issue.