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Outside editorial: Diplomats flex their economic options and Iran gets squeezed

Posted: January 31, 2012 - 1:01am

The following editorial appeared in the Seattle Times:

Hardball diplomacy and enlightened self-interest might get Iran seriously talking about its nuclear program. World leaders, and aspiring U.S. presidential candidates, please take note.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can compete with bluster and bellicosity, but he is no match for a united front.

No one trusts Iran. No one. Its leaders can argue their nuclear intentions are benign — generating electricity and medical research — but the claims only make eyes roll.

The Obama administration aggressively challenged Iran’s production of nuclear fuel and its path to nuclear weapons.

America’s persistent voice is important, but the stakes ramped up with the European Union’s oil embargo.

Enlightened self-interest was not only registering in Tehran, but Beijing as well. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao ended a trip to the Middle East with blunt talk about Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran’s pretensions in the region already upset its neighbors, where the fault lines are religious as well as political.

China does not want any distractions to complicate its economic ties with Saudi Arabia, its primary source of oil imports.

China finding its voice on the international stage will be seen as diplomatic competition, but it also represents potent leverage to be employed in exactly these circumstances.

China is telling its No. 3 supplier of oil to behave. Add the customer base of the EU’s 27 nations and Iran has an incentive to pay attention.

The international community already called Iran’s bluff by offering to provide reactor-ready fuel rods if it would get rid of its enriched uranium stockpiles. Iran brushed the offer aside.

No talks are scheduled, but the key players — the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany — are likely to respond.

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