Remember The Odd Couple Episode: The Hustler
Sure Shot Wilson with a hacking smokers cough: Does my answer matter?
Felix Unger: Your life may depend on it!
The answers out of Geneva starting today seem to carry some of the same weight.
The World Has Much To Lose By A Nuclear Armed Iran, But China Has Conflicting Needs
While face to face negotiations with the Iranians will most likely be a way for that regime to buy more time to work on completing its nuclear agenda, it would not even be worth sitting down at the table without Russia and China being serious partners.
With the disclosure of the second nuclear enrichment plant, the Russians, always an impediment to true action against Iran, may now be onboard with the United States at the Geneva meeting starting tomorrow. Whether they would actually abide by any of the sanctions that could be agreed upon is another story, but their rhetoric has changed.
China on the other hand has serious need for Iran. At the same time, as a sane nation, they recognize that an Iran with a nuclear weapons capability and the means to deliver them is not acceptable. At the present time China appears to be firm in the position that diplomacy is the first line of defense to be worked, sanctions second. And what sanctions would look like according to the Chinese would be another question.
China, as an economy still growing in the 6-8% a year range, has an insatiable need for oil. In 2009 they will probably import close to 15% of its oil from Iran, in addition to having heavy investments in Iranian oil fields. China is also an exporter of gasoline to Iran. A total embargo of gasoline is one of the sanctions that some feel would actually have bite, but do not expect China to agree to those.
For China to justify its position, Iran will say the things that the other participants want to hear, but in reality everyone knows that with a wink and a nod they could not be more disingenuous.
With the position that China is likely to assume, the talks in Geneva may be starting with the United States having one hand tied behind our backs. Let’s hope not.