The online edition of the Washington Post is running an Associated Press report by Anne Gearan with the headline "Rice Confident of U.N. Action on Iran". Gearan writes:
The swift decision to impose international sanctions on North Korea for its rogue nuclear test could grease the skids for sanctions on Iran over its disputed nuclear program, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Saturday.Contrast that with another Associated Press report, this one by AP writer Vladimir Isachenkov, running on the Yahoo! News site under the headline "Russia minister: No punishment for Iran". Isachenkov writes:
"It really does help to create a momentum," Rice said after leaving four days of crisis talks in Asia in response to the North's test.
Russia will not allow the U.N. Security Council to be used to punish Iran over its nuclear program, the foreign minister said. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia was ready to discuss ways to pressure Iran into accepting a broader international oversight of its nuclear program, but added that "any measures of influence should encourage creating conditions for talks."Juxtaposing these quotations throws into relief an interesting point about the politics of Iran's nuclear program at the Security Council.
"We won't be able to support and will oppose any attempts to use the Security Council to punish Iran or use Iran's program in order to promote the ideas of regime change there," Lavrov said Friday in an interview with the Kuwaiti News Agency KUNA which was posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry Web site Saturday.
Rice and Lavrov -- and their respective governments -- do not define the problem facing the Security Council in the same way. For Rice and the United States, the objective is to restrict Iran's nuclear program and prevent it from developing nuclear weapons. For Lavrov and Russia, restricting Iran's nuclear program may be an objective, but so is constraining U.S. power and restricting its ability to confront Iran militarily.
U.S. media sources generally report on the politics of Iran's nuclear program at the Security Council as if the definition of the problem were uncontroversial -- U.S. press accounts generally assume that the issue before the Security Council is how the world ought to respond to the prospect of nukes in the hands of a menacing Iranian regime.
In reality, China, Russia and France (i.e. the permanent members of the Security Council other than the U.S. and the U.K.) may well perceive the central problem facing the Security Council in the following way: How to keep the United States engaged in the Security Council process and prevent it from operating as a rogue superpower outside of the institutional framework of the United Nations, while at the same time being careful to avoid any Security Council action that could be used by the United States as a justification or pretext for executing its fundamentally unilateral plans (especially military plans).
This may well be the true achievement of the Bush Administration: bringing about a New World Order in which the central organizing principle in international relations is constraining U.S. power.
UPDATE, 5:35 PM: The WaPo link now takes you to a different story by Anne Gearan, filed later in the day. As of 5:35 PM, versions of the original story can be found on the websites of ABC News, Forbes, CBS News and others (except that "grease the skids" has been changed to "clear the way").