- The Washington Times - Friday, September 25, 2009

NEW YORK | President Obama on Thursday put in place the final piece of this week’s effort to create international pressure on Iran’s nuclear program, using a bit of diplomatic theater to prod the United Nations to act against Tehran if upcoming talks do not yield positive results.

Mr. Obama’s decision to chair the Security Council, a first for any U.S. president, and unanimous support of a U.S.-sponsored resolution to prevent the spread of nuclear arms capped a week of moves by the Obama administration that left it feeling a bit of wind in its sails at a time when Iran appears to be closing in on the ability to make nuclear weapons.

“The world must stand together and demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise and that treaties will be enforced,” Mr. Obama said, moments after the 15-member council voted to make it harder to smuggle nuclear materials or to convert a nuclear energy program into a weapons program.

The president said that the resolution was not aimed at any one nation, but even his own supporters said that Iran and North Korea were its main targets.

“These efforts directly relate to preventing rogue states like Iran and North Korea from developing nuclear weapons,” said Adam Blickstein of the National Security Network, a liberal foreign policy advocacy group.

Despite the momentum created by the president’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, a positive meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in which he signaled support for tough sanctions against Iran and the Security Council resolution on Thursday, a top White House adviser to Mr. Obama said the administration is not satisfied.

“There is growing impatience with Iran,” the senior foreign policy adviser said. “We will continue to press this issue with the urgency it demands.”

Later Thursday, China set back signs of progress when Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said greater diplomatic efforts, not strong sanctions, should be used to pressure Iran.

The first talks between the five permanent members of the Security Council — the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain — along with Germany and the European Union and Iranian representatives, are scheduled to start on Oct. 1 to discuss nuclear weapons. Tehran has indicated that it would talk about nuclear proliferation broadly without discussion of its own nuclear program.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is considered by many likely to order a military strike on Iran’s nuclear energy facilities in the next few months if talks do not produce results, also expressed a sense of urgency in a speech to the General Assembly.

“The most urgent challenge facing this body is to prevent the tyrants of Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Are the member states of the United Nations up to that challenge?” Mr. Netanyahu said, raising the specter of another Holocaust if Iran, which wishes for the destruction of Israel, is allowed to obtain nuclear weapons.

“The jury is still out on the United Nations, and recent signs are not encouraging,” the Israeli leader said, raising recent examples of what the Israelis believe is a long pattern of bias against the Jewish state.

On Thursday evening, Mr. Obama headed to Pittsburgh for a two-day meeting of the world’s largest economies, the Group of 20, where the focus shifted to the global economy, though analysts said Iran would be a topic of discussion

Mr. Obama’s play to empower and work through international institutions such as the United Nations, a clear break with the more unilateral policies of the Bush administration, drew heavy criticism from some corners.

John R. Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Bush, said Mr. Obama’s actions this week revealed “naivety and Wilsonianism in foreign policy that’s been absent for decades and that really signals weakness to America’s friends and allies around the world.”

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