Russia and China debate U.N. sanctions.

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Iran has left the world no choice but to pursue international sanctions, said Pyotr Romanov in a commentary for Moscow’s RIA Novosti news service. Russia did have good reasons for opposing sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program in the U.N. Security Council. Our diplomats argued compellingly that as long as the International Atomic Energy Agency had access to Iranian nuclear facilities, its inspectors would have a chance of finding out just how much Iran has been hiding. “But as soon as the Security Council got the file, their hands would be tied, and Iran would get carte blanche” while the council considered its options. Those arguments, though, are now moot. When Iran last week broke the IAEA seals on its uranium enrichment facilities, it showed it was ready to spurn the IAEA no matter what. It’s too bad, because boycotting Iran will hurt Russia economically. But “nonproliferation of nuclear weapons comes first.” Russia does not want to see another of its neighbors become a nuclear-armed power.

That’s why Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has changed his tune, said Mikhail Zygar, Ivan Safronov, and Konstantin Lantratov in Moscow’s Kommersant. Russian diplomats are convinced that “Iran is not bluffing” and is even willing to risk a U.S. attack. They gave Iran every opportunity to show that its nuclear intentions really were peaceful. It has failed to show that. Instead, as Lavrov pointed out recently, Iran’s president seems determined to present himself as a loose cannon with his bellicose threats against Israel. “It all adds to the political arguments of those who say that Iran can be communicated with only through the U.N. Security Council,” Lavrov said.

We’re not there yet, said Hua Li Ming, former Chinese ambassador to Iran, in Beijing’s People’s Daily. The Security Council can offer only sanctions, since a military strike is out of the question. But don’t forget that “sanctions are actually double-edged.” They may hurt the punished, “but they hurt the punisher, too.” Foreign oil companies would have to pull out of Iran, sending the global price of oil into the stratosphere. And it’s not just China that would be hurt—Japan and the E.U. also consume lots of Iranian oil. Even setting aside the economic consequences, sanctions could prove counterproductive. “Once isolated, Iran and its people would oppose America and other Western countries with a stronger anger, and a more extreme political force would be pushed onto the political stage.”

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