Sanctions fail to change Iran’s behavior, White House concedes
By Pam Benson, CNN Senior National Security Producer
updated 6:19 PM EST, Tue November 22, 2011
Washington (CNN) — While international sanctions continue to mount against Iran and its nuclear program, the Obama administration acknowledged Tuesday that the steps have done little to change Iran’s behavior.
National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon said at a conference at the Brookings Institution that Iran is paying a steep price for its intransigence. Growing international sanctions, diplomatic isolation and growing defense alliances in the region continue to ratchet up the pressure on Iran and have helped slow its nuclear efforts.
But Donilon also admitted that “the Iranian regime has not fundamentally altered its behavior.”
This month, the International Atomic Energy Agency questioned whether Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes, as Iran maintains. In the most detailed report to date, the IAEA found “credible” information that Tehran has carried out work toward nuclear weapons, including tests of possible bomb components.
More at the link.. Mr Donilon continued, saying that, eventually, sanctions would have an effect, if we are persistent, but that raises the obvious question: does “eventually” mean before or after Iran has developed and built atomic bombs? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that there would be a significant increase in the sanctions and pressure, but if the National Security Adviser is saying that sanctions haven’t had any real effect, just what does it mean? Is the Obama Administration divided on this important foreign policy concern? Does our policy contradict what Administration insiders are saying or believe?
That is the result of reading CNN’s report. However, Reuters reported on the same story, but they couldn’t be more different:
Obama policy has slowed Iran nuclear effort: aide
By Matt Spetalnick
WASHINGTON | Tue Nov 22, 2011 7:51pm EST
(Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s top national security aide said on Tuesday a U.S.-led drive to isolate Iran had slowed its nuclear program and that there was still “time, space and means” to persuade Tehran to abandon atomic weapons ambitions.
National security adviser Tom Donilon defended Obama’s Iran policy in a wide-ranging speech following criticism by Republican presidential contenders that the administration had not done enough to thwart Tehran’s nuclear advances.
His remarks may also serve as an appeal to Israel for more time to let Washington’s strategy work. There has been growing speculation about an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear sites since a U.N. nuclear watchdog accused Tehran this month of covert atomic weapons work.
“Iran today is fundamentally weaker, more isolated, more vulnerable and badly discredited than ever,” Donilon said at the Brookings Institution think tank a day after the United States, Britain and Canada slapped new sanctions on Iran’s energy and financial sectors.
He said that after Iran rejected the Obama’s early diplomatic outreach and continued defying the international community, the United States had worked to ratchet up sanctions, strengthen military ties with Tehran’s neighbors and increase it isolation.
“The effect of these sanctions has been clear,” Donilon said. “Coupled with mistakes and difficulties in Iran, they have slowed Iran’s nuclear efforts … Not only is it harder for Iran to proceed, it is more expensive.”
If all that you read was the CNN report, you’d think that Iran was well on its way to building atomic bombs, and that nothing we can do, short of a military attack, could stop them. If all you read was the Reuters’ story, you’d think that President Obama’s policies have been effective so far, and Iran would soon have to back down from its nuclear weapons program, though it does concede that:
Despite those claims, Obama — like predecessors George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — has been unable to persuade Iran to halt its nuclear program or come clean on its developments.
So, which one is it? One speech, from Mr Donilon, and two wholly different reports about what he said, or at least what he meant. Is Mr Donilon saying that our policies are working, though perhaps not as fast as we’d like, or is he saying that it doesn’t really matter what we do, Iran simply won’t comply?
Maybe he doesn’t really know what he meant himself. Or, maybe these two stories, neither of which was an editorial, were reported in ways which reflected the reporters’ biases as much as they relayed the facts.