The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration secured China’s cooperation in dealing with Iran by holding out the specter of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. According to the Post, two senior officials on the National Security Council – Jeffrey Bader and the ubiquitous Dennis Ross – told China that if it did not help the U.S. on the issue of Iranian nukes, Israel might well bomb Iran. This, in turn, would lead to a crisis in the Persian Gulf that would diminish China’s access to oil, Bader and Ross warned.
Following this warning, China said it would support what the Post describes as “a toughly worded U.S.-backed statement criticizing the Islamic republic for flouting U.N. resolutions by constructing a secret uranium-enrichment plant.”
What should we make of this? First, the perception that Israel is willing to strike Iran constitutes the best weapon the Obama administration has when it comes to rallying key elements of the international community to take steps aimed at dealing with the Iranian threat. So this option needs to be on the table. Second, even so, the best the Obama administration seems able to produce is a “toughly worded statement” criticizing something Iran has already done. What’s the next step, an angry letter to the New York Times?
Third, China’s overriding interest in the Middle East is access to oil, and the same is true for all, or nearly all, key players. While this fact may, thanks to Israel, be useful when it comes to generating “tough” statements, it suggests that ultimately Iran may hold the trump card when it comes to more meaningful action.
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