robert gibbs misled on meet the press

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is a campaign style spokesman who thrives on political spin. But after almost 18 months of acting as the official White House Spokesman, he shouldn’t be allowed to spin foreign policy facts on Meet the Press without pushback from David Gregory or other journalists. On Sunday, Gibbs tried to spin the Obama Administration’s policies on Iran and North Korea by misrepresenting the facts about the support the Obama team got at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

Gibbs either doesn’t understand what happened at the UN or he is lying. Gibbs repeatedly referred to “bringing everyone to the table” to support “the strongest sanctions” the UN has ever placed on North Korea and Iran. He also said that the Bush Administration didn’t have the support of Russia and China on their sanctions resolutions in “September or October 2008” and that the Obama Administration has “better relationships with countries” and “improved relationships….that make our Country safer.” But the facts show that Gibbs is wrong.

Gibbs should know that the Obama team, lead by UN Ambassador Susan Rice, failed to get a unanimous vote on the first and only Iran sanctions resolution this administration has authored. In fact, the Obama team failed to get the support of Lebanon, Turkey and Brazil. Of the 15 members of the Security Council, Rice and the Obama team only received 12 votes – the least amount of support we have ever seen for a UNSC sanctions resolution on Iran. While Gibbs claims that everyone is at the table, the Obama table has more empty seats than the Bush table had. Despite what Gibbs tries to spin, the Bush team got fewer NO votes in 5 resolutions on Iran than the Obama team got on their one and only resolution.

Additionally, Gibbs needs to go back and look at the Security Council roll call vote and video footage from UN resolution #1835 that passed on September 27, 2008. While Gibbs claims on Sunday’s Meet the Press that Russia’s and China’s support was unclear, they both clearly raised their hand to vote in favor of the resolution. That resolution, which called on Iran to “comply fully and without delay” with SC demands and IAEA directives, was written, negotiated and forced to a unanimous vote 7 days after the IAEA issued their then-latest report on Iran’s illegal uranium enrichment. Gibbs’ claim that we didn’t know where Russia and China stood is laughable when you can actually watch the video showing the Chinese and Russian diplomats with their hands in the air.

But Gibbs is not the only Administration official to spread misinformation about the Bush team’s record at the UN. Shortly after the June 9, 2010 SC vote on Iran sanctions where the Obama team got only 12 votes in favor of the resolution, UN Ambassador Susan Rice also tried to distract attention from her poor performance by misleading Fox News Sunday viewers about the Bush team’s vote count. Rice jumped to defend the Obama Administration’s lackluster performance by claiming that previous Iran resolutions were not unanimous during the Bush Administration and that there were “abstentions”. Her strategy to minimize the Bush team’s performance in order to make her own meager results look better isn’t factual. It was, in fact, one of three Iran resolutions the Bush team got passed unanimously. Two other resolutions passed with only one country voting against sanctions and one country abstaining (singular abstention, not plural as Rice claimed). Not a bad accomplishment for a team that the Obama Administration labeled devoid of friends around the world.

Gibbs’ claims of better relationships with other countries also seem suspect if those friends don’t actually support us on priority issues. The Obama team consistently confuses kind words with actual commitments and votes. While some countries clearly like the softer stance from the Obama Administration, they also aren’t being convinced to support us. The Obama team waited 17 months before they brought forward a UN resolution pressuring Iran with additional sanctions. In that time, the Iranians made unfettered progress toward a nuclear weapon with less pressure and inquiry from an international community celebrating the fact that they weren’t being confronted by the U.S. with the Iran question.

Gibbs’ performance on Meet the Press suggests that he either consciously misled viewers on the Administration’s UN performance or he isn’t paying attention to Susan Rice’s performance. Either way, the White House press corps should challenge his statements and make him correct the record.

how did we lose brazil, turkey and lebanon?

After 17 months of diplomacy, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice was only able to get 12 of the 15 countries on the United Nations Security Council to vote to place increased sanctions on the Islamic Republic’s illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons. Yesterday, on Fox News Sunday, Rice jumped to defend the Obama Administration’s lackluster performance by claiming that previous Iran resolutions were not unanimous during the Bush Administration and that there were “abstentions”. Her strategy to minimize the Bush team’s performance in order to make her own poor performance look better isn’t factual. After so much hype about President Barack Obama’s foreign policy engagement strategy, the Obama UN resolution was remarkably weak, took too long to get and received less support than Bush’s team got in producing FIVE Security Council resolutions on Iran.

Wednesday’s vote was the first Iran resolution for the Obama team but not the first time the Security Council pressured the government of Iran to suspend all nuclear enrichment-related and reprocessing activity. In September 2008, President George W. Bush and his team wrote, negotiated and forced a vote of the 15 nations that sit on the Council. That resolution passed unanimously, including with the support of Russia and China. It was one of three Iran resolutions the Bush team got passed unanimously. Rice would lead you to believe otherwise. Two other resolutions passed with only one country voting against sanctions and one country abstaining (singular abstention, not plural as Rice claimed). Not a bad accomplishment for a team that the Obama Administration labeled devoid of friends around the world.

While the Obama team continues to tout their global fame, their popularity failed to convince Brazil, Turkey and Lebanon from voting for the sanctions resolution — despite 17 months of diplomacy. Obama’s foreign policy weakness and acquiescence has made him an international celebrity guest, but it isn’t producing the promised results on U.S. foreign policy priorities. The Obama team’s poor performance calls into question its overly diplomatic strategy to lead the world through excessive talk.

Barack Obama has been a law professor longer than he has done any other job. As an expert in Constitutional Law, he learned to intellectualize issues and map out ways to make change on paper. But Obama has very little experience dealing with issues outside the classroom or committee room. The 55 day oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a perfect study in the president’s intellectual strategy failing to produce results. Through a plethora of White House meetings with experts theorizing how the oil pipeline can be turned off, the Obama team is instructing BP rather than taking action itself. On Iran, there is some logic to the argument that we should not be afraid to speak to dictators. But the diplomatic reality is that dictators, like exploded pipelines, don’t play by rational rules.

During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Obama explained that he would speak directly to dictators like Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. “The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them…is ridiculous,” he said. This argument makes sense only if you assume that the United States is just another country with no more influence than the next. And since we know that President Obama doesn’t believe America is exceptional, it makes sense to him.

But the 17 months of the Obama Presidency have proven that it actually does matter what America says – and to whom. The U.S. failed to strongly confront the Iranian regime with tough talk or multilateral diplomacy for 17 months, giving the Islamic Republic time and space to continue enriching uranium. The Administration’s delay and weakness also gave Russia, China, Brazil, Turkey and Lebanon a strong signal that the U.S. wouldn’t be leading the charge to isolate Iran, nor punish its bad behavior. The message to the world was very loud: America isn’t exceptional and you are free to ignore its wishes. Without American leadership, and yes, consequences, allies like Brazil and Turkey end up cutting their own deals with dictators like Ahmedinejad. And China and Russia are allowed to carve out economic contracts that circumvent UN demands and international sanctions.

Also during the 2008 campaign, Obama routinely called for more diplomacy and more international troops in Afghanistan. As last week’s UN vote shows, 17 months of more diplomacy from the diplomat in Chief achieved very little. Obama’s charm offense has also yet to convince our allies to give additional troops to help the Afghans, pass the Copenhagen Consensus, rally support for a no-fly zone in Sudan and put missiles in Eastern Europe. The facts show that the Bush style that Obama routinely ridiculed and derided produced better results than his exaggerated diplomacy has achieved. Bush lost two countries’ support in five Iran resolutions; Obama lost three countries’ support in one resolution.

If you are comfortable living in a world where America has no more influence than China, then you may like Obama’s softer, quieter, weaker America. Iran certainly loves the breathing room they got from Rice waiting 17 months before increasing the pressure on their illegal nuclear weapons program. And allies like Turkey, Brazil and Lebanon now find it easy to ignore Obama. It isn’t popular to say, but the world needs a strong America. The world needs an America that leads our allies and isn’t troubled by certain charges of hubris from elites on the Upper East Side of New York City or in capitals around the world. One thing is clear – Obama’s easy professorial attitude isn’t winning us votes.

oprah is tougher

Last week, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice called a press conference. She used her political capital and soapbox to bring together UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin to combat what she calls “a global problem.” She called on world leaders to follow her lead in bringing an end to this global scourge. As the powerful group gathered in front of the international media assembled to witness the announcement, Rice proclaimed, “It’s a killer. The suffering it causes is direct and immediate—lives lost for no reason, futures shattered in an instant. But its toll is truly global. It’s a problem, as the Secretary-General just said, that needs global attention and action—and that’s why we all stand here today.”

In her first press conference with the Secretary-General and the Russian Ambassador by her side, Rice wasn’t speaking about Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, Sudan’s genocide or North Korea’s downing of a South Korean ship. Rice wasn’t speaking of the global fight against terrorism either. Rice called the powerful group together to stop the world from texting while driving.

While texting and driving may be an important issue in the United States or other western countries, the overwhelming majority of the world’s population doesn’t own a cell phone, let alone a car. Recent statistics show that roughly 8% of the world’s population owns a car, compared to 89% of U.S. households. Texting while driving, an important public safety issue, is best left to the jurisdiction of local and state officials, not our UN Ambassador. America’s representative to the UN has plenty of other issues she should be working on. For Rice to assemble such an important group of leaders to confront such a non-controversial issue shows an incredible weakness as a serious diplomat. Within just a few weeks, Rice chose to speak up on texting while driving but failed to speak out on Iran’s election to the Women’s Commission.

As Ambassador, Rice hasn’t been willing to wade into America’s complicated foreign policy challenges and has avoided controversial issues. Citizen Rice, however, talked tough about America’s foreign policy challenges and spoke often about Sudan’s genocide.

In 2004, citizen Rice lambasted President Bush for not doing more to lead our allies at the UN on the Iranian nuclear issue. She said, “This approach demands more of the United States than abdication to European diplomacy. It requires U.S. leadership, in partnership with the Europeans, of a complex and urgent negotiation with Iran. Apparently, President Bush finds this prospect too difficult or too uncomfortable.” (Her full article, “We Need a Real Iran Policy,” can be read here: But in the nearly 16 months Rice has been representing the American people at the United Nations, she has not produced a single resolution aimed at stopping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. The Bush Administration produced five resolutions on Iran’s illegal pursuit, three with increasing sanctions.

And in 2007 while working at the Brookings Institute, Rice accepted an invitation from then-Senator Joe Biden to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the issue of Darfur. Then citizen Rice said, “The U.S. should press for a Chapter 7 U.N. resolution that issues Sudan an ultimatum. Accept the unconditional deployment of the U.N. force or face military consequences. The resolution would authorize enforcement by U.N. member states collectively or individually.” But UN Ambassador Rice hasn’t passed, circulated or even written that resolution. And in a 2006 interview with National Public Radio, citizen Rice said, “Well, I think the first thing that the international community ought to do is to strike Sudanese air assets, their aircraft, their helicopters, their airfields, that have been used relentlessly to attack innocent civilians in Darfur.” As Ambassador, Rice has never asked the Security Council to approve those airstrikes.

Either Susan Rice is a weak negotiator or she is a tough talker from the sidelines. If America’s Ambassador to the UN is to be relegated to stopping drivers from texting while behind the wheel, then maybe President Obama should ask Oprah to be our representative at the UN – at least she is asking people to sign a contract.

susan rice refuses to call out libya as they are elected to the human rights council

Coming on the heels of not speaking out on Iran’s election last week to the Commission on the Status of Women and three other UN Committees, Susan Rice, the sometimes American Ambassador to the UN, today didn’t even mention Libya’s name when asked about the African country’s election to the UN’s Human Rights Council.

It was a softball question to Rice from a veteran UN reporter: “Some human rights groups have complained about Libya joining the Council, do you share those concerns?”

Rice said that sticking with diplomatic tradition, she wouldn’t reveal how America votes. And then she went on to compliment the Human Rights Council’s work. It was a stunning blow to human rights activists around the world.

The Obama Administration last year joined the Human Rights Council after the Bush Administration took America off the UN committee for its lack of action on serious issues and its inability to name violators of human rights. The Bush team felt strongly that the Council was spending too much time beating up on the U.S. and Israel and too little time looking at serious human rights violators. And while the Bush Administration withheld the Human Rights Council’s funding in protest, the Obama Administration restored it. In re-joining the UN’s Council, Obama and Rice said that it would be better to work from within rather than criticize from the outside. But now that Rice is inside the Council, she doesn’t have the guts to say the name of the newly elected country that has a history of rights violations and terrorism. Today Rice repeated her claim, “…it is preferable to work from within to shape and reform a body with the importance and potential of the Human Rights Council, rather than to stay on the sidelines and reject it.”

So let’s look at Rice’s attempts to “shape” the Council for this year’s vote.

In typical UN fashion, four African countries were running for four regional seats on the world body’s most prominent human rights committee. Although Rice has known for weeks that Libya would win a seat on the Human Rights Council because there was no competition for the African seats, she chose not to highlight the issue before the vote or attempt to find another African candidate to challenge the election status quo. In a letter sent to Rice by more than 30 human rights organizations before the vote, the clean slate attempt by the Africans was highlighted as a violation of the original reform commitment. The letter said, “This contravenes the 2006 promise that the reformed Council would bring competitive elections, and sets a poor example.” Rice ignored the human rights groups’ appeal and didn’t try to make a competitive race for Libya.

Making no attempt to find another candidate country is not working to “shape” the Council as Rice claims the U.S. is doing by joining it. Shaping the Council means that you help elect countries that have a strong human rights record and you work to keep countries that violate human rights off the Council. Rice didn’t speak up to highlight the problem, didn’t try to find another candidate and couldn’t utter Libya’s name today.

But Rice did compliment the Human Rights Council for its work. Although the Council hasn’t been able to seriously confront widespread rights violations in Sudan, North Korea, Burma or Cuba, Rice thinks the Council deserves praise for its important efforts. Contributions like the Council’s condemnation of Israel for war crimes in Gaza, or the recent statement by 6 UN human rights experts that the new Arizona law on illegal immigration could violate international standards.

Even Former Secretary General Kofi Annan recommended reforming the Human Rights Council by limiting membership and questioning the regional voting system that creates geographic quotas in his March 2005 report titled, `In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights For All’. To be fair, you can’t blame the UN when the members fail to act. But we can expect the American representative to show up and speak with moral clarity.

What is clear is that Susan Rice hasn’t found her voice at the UN even though she has been in the job for over a year. It’s hard to take her seriously when in one week’s time she doesn’t speak out on Iran’s election to a UN Committee to promote women’s rights nor Libya’s ascension to sit and judge human rights violators. One has to ask, how is staying silent “working from within”? And how is doing nothing to stop a human rights violator from getting elected to a human rights committee “shaping the Council”? If working from within means that Rice loses her voice, then America needs a stronger voice at the UN.

she wasn’t even in the room

Now comes word that United States Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice wasn’t even at the UN, let alone in the committee room, when UN members voted Iran onto the Commission on the Status of Women committee. Not only was our Ambassador not in the room for the vote, she wasn’t even in the building. Wouldn’t you think that a female American Ambassador would understand the importance of standing up against a country that has some of the most hostile laws toward women? Shouldn’t Rice want to use the opportunity to highlight the regime’s record toward women? What’s also troubling is that we are now learning that Iran was not only elected to the Women’s committee sans Rice, but Iran was elected to 3 other UN committees that day. Iran is now an official member of the UN’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Commission on Science and Technology for Development and the Governing Council of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). And our representative didn’t bother to show up or speak up.

After spending 8 years at the UN, I understand that U.S. Ambassadors have a lot of issues to cover. There is no way to expect one Ambassador to cover all of the U.S. government priority issues at the UN. And certainly there are a plethora of UN meetings that drag on with an unlimited number of speakers and no time limits. And I also understand the unique ways of the UN system and the regional voting blocks that control elections. But an American Ambassador must be able to be nimble and spontaneous. The U.S. Ambassador’s staff must be able to monitor situations simultaneously and use the Ambassador’s time to maximize attention and impact. If the votes are stacked against the U.S. and we are going to lose an election then for heaven’s sake – stand up and say something! Bring some shame on the countries that vote for the violators by drawing attention to the situation. American silence sends a very loud message and encourages the status quo.

But U.S. Mission staff confirm that Rice wasn’t at the UN and therefore wasn’t able to even drop by the committee elections meeting that was taking place. Even after all the votes were counted and Iran was elected to 4 committee assignments at the UN, Rice didn’t speak out to highlight the hypocrisy of electing a country like Iran to a committee designed to promote women’s rights because she wasn’t around.

For Rice, this silence is becoming a pattern. She is seldom in New York City and even spends less time at the UN. Rice has not conducted the hard negotiations nor done the sometimes unpopular and messy work of engaging the UN or speaking up when others are silent. Rice has been routinely unavailable to reporters, absent from daily UN meetings and all too often silent when the American people needed a strong voice to speak out on an important issue. From Iran to Zimbabwe to Sudan to Cuba, Rice consistently stays silent. It’s no wonder other countries at the UN think the Obama Administration is so easy to work with. And it also explains why we haven’t had one single Security Council resolution on Iran since Rice arrived. In a roughly two year period, the Bush Administration passed a total of 5 Iran resolutions, 3 of which contained increased sanctions and were voted unanimously (one sanctions resolution passed 14 to 1 with Indonesia voting no). The excuse that Rice is building relationships quietly or has a different type of style is lame. We don’t need to win popularity contests, we need action and votes and leadership. In Rice’s case, we just need her to start showing up for meetings and using her microphone.

It’s time for Rice to step up and represent American interests at the UN or step aside and cede the role to someone who will show up for the fight.

iraq: bloody, deadly and yet an example for the middle east

Iraq: An Example for the Middle East by Richard Grenell – Al-Jazeera

It’s Been Bloody, Deadly and Yet An Example For the Entire Middle East

The Iraqi people have voted in free and fair elections locally, nationally and provincially since Saddam Hussein was ousted by the American military in 2003. This week, Iraqis will show the Arab world once again that their hard-fought freedom and painful sacrifices are an example for all people struggling under oppressive regimes.

On January 10, 2007, President George W. Bush defied critics and ignored popular opinion and political polls throughout the United States by committing more than 20,000 additional American troops to the war in Iraq. “The Surge,” as it is commonly called, has since been credited with bringing the Iraqi people more security, less violence and greater freedoms. By July 2008, the surge was heralded as a success from Baghdad to Boston.

In originally announcing the highly controversial surge, President Bush made a nationally televised gamble to dramatically change the most important United States foreign policy of his presidency. While Bush confidently said that the surge was for a “unified, democratic federal Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself, and sustain itself, and is an ally in the War on Terror,” Democrats in Washington, DC, loudly disagreed. Bush went on to make clear that more than 20,000 American men and women would be placed throughout Baghad and the Al Anbar Province “to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security.” The president’s bold gambit was belittled and roundly mocked among liberals in the United States and Europe — as well as by the future leader of the free world.

Moments after the surge was announced, then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama announced, “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq are going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse.” Future President Obama was emphatic that America should not only not add troops but that American men and women should also exit Iraq as soon as possible. In announcing his candidacy for president a month later, Obama said: “It’s time to start bringing our troops home…That’s why I have a plan that will bring our combat troops home by March of 2008.” Within months of entering the race for the White House in 2007, Obama started voting against Congressional funding for the troops and campaigning strongly for bringing the troops home.

It’s fair to say that if Barack Obama would have been president a year earlier than he was, a very different Iraq would have emerged than the one developing today. In June 2006 and September of 2007, Obama voted to bring the American troops home from Iraq. If implemented, Obama’s wish would have left the untrained Iraqi military force to deal with the sectarian violence alone. Iran, Syria and Al-Qaeda would have been left unchallenged in their efforts to destabilize Iraq and surely would have successfully fomented a civil war by moving their secret campaign to arm and entice violent factions out into the open. The more than 4,300 American soldiers who died defending freedom in Iraq and the tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis killed by the extremists’ violence would have been in vain.

But thankfully, for Iraqis who believe in democracy and crave freedom, George W. Bush ignored popular opinion and worked closely with military experts to surge Iraq forward and help put it on the path it is today. Although Iraq still sees sectarian violence and terrorist bombings all too much, there is no question that Iraq has made monumental change to its political system and in a relatively short time.

This week’s free and fair elections are yet another example of a young democracy taking hold in a country where just a few years ago real elections and campaigning were unthinkable. No country in the Middle East gives its people more freedoms than Iraq does today. NGO’s are being created weekly, a civil society has emerged to challenge the government’s decisions, demand transparency, represent minorities and bring attention to people and issues that were ignored in the past. Iraq has a free press that is unrivaled in the Arab world, unobstructed access to the Internet and a military that is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the heart of the world’s most unstable territory.

While Iraq’s very young democracy is messy, incomplete and imperfect, it is currently the envy of the Arab world. But the Western media’s impatience to see a perfectly developed democracy in Iraq has made it difficult for people to see the important progress that has been made in the seven years this month that America led a coalition to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Obama’s view that America should have given up on Iraq certainly had many supporters in the U.S. when the surge was announced. Then-Senator Joe Biden said after Bush’s televised appearance, “If he surges another 20, 30 (thousand), or whatever number he’s going to, into Baghdad, it’ll be a tragic mistake.” Then-Senator Hillary Clinton proclaimed, “Based on the president’s speech tonight, I cannot support his proposed escalation of the war in Iraq.” And

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi would still be working toward her stated goal “Bringing the War to an End is my Highest Priority as Speaker.” Iraqis should be thankful that Obama, Biden, Clinton and Pelosi weren’t in charge of American foreign policy in 2007.

Because this weekend, 19 million eligible Iraqis will be able to participate in the greatest democratic exercise the Arab world has ever seen. Once again, Iraq is holding national parliamentary elections and showing the world just how far it’s come in a short period of time. Unlike in 2005’s national parliamentary election, the 6,529 candidates this time have been feverishly campaigning for months and their names will be on an open ballot. The Iraqi government has enlisted 300,000 elections officials to watch over the process at the 50,000 polling stations throughout the country, including those ballots cast outside Iraq by Iraqis living abroad. Americans are rightly proud to watch millions of Iraqis go to the polls to cast their ballots for anyone they chose. And like Americans, Iraqis will still need to petition their government, organize around issues and demand transparency even after the final ballot has been counted.

While ethnic and religious rivalry continues, the Iraqis will need to denounce sectarianism and embrace nationalism yet again. While political maneuvering, compromise, scandal and political patronage will unfortunately be a part of any democracy, Iraqis must bravely go to the polls and cast their votes to decide whether Nuri Kamal al-Maliki deserves enough seats to return as prime minister. Whoever wins, the Iraqis must also work to quickly form a new and inclusive government with a peaceful transition of its leaders. As Iraqis are learning, democracy is a constant process, not a one-time event.

But this weekend’s election reminds us, too, that Bush’s vision for democracy in the Middle East is beginning to unfold with the consecutive democratic elections in Iraq and Afghanistan. As both these countries continue to mature and fine-tune their systems, the question remains – which Arab country will be next? Who will start the long, expensive and bloody process of bringing freedom and democracy to their people?

obama’s gamble to talk iran out of a nuclear weapon is a failure

Obama’s Gamble To Talk Iran Out of a Nuclear Weapon Has Failed

Let’s face it; President Barack Obama’s hope for a dialogue with dictators was a naïve gamble to begin with. Even many people in his own party thought it was an academic exercise from an inexperienced law professor that wasn’t rooted in reality. But during the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama was on one side of the argument of what to do about Iran and Hillary Clinton and John McCain were on the other. Obama championed the idea that he could rally the international community to do more to isolate the Government of Iran and that he could sit down with its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to convince him that he should give up the illegal pursuit of a nuclear bomb. Clinton and McCain, however, advocated for a tougher approach that included immediate new sanctions, using The White House bully-pulpit and possible military action. While Obama believed that he could convince Ahmadinejad of the error of his ways through direct dialogue, Clinton and McCain warned that it was a waste of precious time.

One year later Obama has single-handedly allowed the Iranians more than a year of unfettered progress toward a nuclear weapon with less pressure and inquiry from the international community. Even the slow-moving, state-the-obvious International Atomic Energy Agency announced this week that it fears Iran is working toward a nuclear warhead to go along with its undisclosed uranium enrichment activities. While Obama experimented with his classroom thesis of talking dictators out of their nuclear pursuits, many in the international community celebrated the fact that they weren’t being confronted by the United States with the lingering Iran problem. From Cairo to Berlin, the world celebrated Obama’s perceived world peace and even gave him the Nobel Prize. The Iranians, meanwhile, continued to build a nuclear weapon. While Obama did his world-wide victory lap, the Iranian Government celebrated their freedom. And although the United States has been negotiating with Iran for more than 30 years, Obama has been acting like this nation has never tried diplomacy. It is dangerous for a President to believe that his personality is so different from previous leaders’ that people will change their course of action just because of who is asking.

But recently, the President has been trying something new. “The next step is sanctions,” President Obama said on February 9. The problem with the President’s latest pronouncement is that the next step WAS sanctions – 14 months ago. Obama missed his opportunity to crank up the heat on Tehran and send the Government of Iran the message that the world cannot wait for it to decide an appropriate time to give up its illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons. Over the last 14 months, the U.S. should have been enforcing the existing UN sanctions, ratcheting up the pressure with new penalties, urging the Europeans to abide by the current financial restrictions and supporting the opposition inside Iran. Now, a new round of sanctions and the inevitable protracted process getting to a UN vote may play into the Iranian’s hopes for more time. UN sanctions will take months of consistent pressure. To begin a UN sanctions process now will only compound the dangerous mistakes Obama has already made.

And his UN Ambassador, Susan Rice, may be too weak to negotiate a Security Council resolution on Iran. Shockingly, Obama and Rice haven’t produced a single UN Security Council resolution on Iran since they’ve been in office. Putting Rice up against the Iranians or even the Chinese or Europeans should give every American a cause for concern. Rice is much more at home in an empty Security Council chamber with a Vogue Magazine camera across from her than a disagreeable foreign diplomat. This past year, Rice has spent more time in Washington looking to trip up Hillary and take her job than she has spent working the halls of the UN negotiating a resolution on Iran. And like Obama, she has not paid attention to the priority issues. While Rice claims that her cabinet-level job requires more DC face time, in fact, U.S. Mission employees have confirmed that Rice isn’t leading the Iran negotiations from New York or Washington. The State Department in Washington has taken the responsibility of writing a UN Resolution away from Rice and is negotiating directly with the French ambassador. American leadership at the UN has vanished. And the United States has never been more popular because of it. While the Iranians have been secretly enriching uranium to 19.75% grade and demonstrating that they have the technology to make a nuclear weapon, the U.S. has spent this last year pressuring China on its carbon emissions and working towards a Copenhagen Accord.

Warnings from China that we need a diplomatic solution for Iran and no new sanctions have scared the Obama Administration into a year-long holding pattern. But Russian and Chinese veto threats are nothing new. Russia and China are experts at whipping the media into an anti-sanctions frenzy. Obama and Rice don’t seem to understand that Russia and China publicly speak one way but rarely stand behind their threats when an issue like Iran is put to a Security Council vote. Neither China nor Russia will call for a vote on Iran sanctions but they can be forced to a veto. Rice should have required a discussion on the Iran issue last year and called for a sanctions vote when the original Obama deadline passed last summer.

Team Obama has spent the year dithering and hoping that doing nothing would allow the opposition inside Iran time to peacefully bring down Ahmadinejad’s government. But while the Obama team nervously talks among themselves, they have missed the opportunity to make the Internet available to the thousands of student protesters inside Iran or to implement harsh sanctions on the government that could push Ahmadinejad over the cliff and deliver the fatal blow to his presidency. The Obama administration should cease making the old, tired claim that American involvement would undermine the opposition by playing into the hands of Ahmadinejad’s re-cycled message that this is an American CIA coup on his presidency. We are well past the point of the Arab world thinking thousands of Iranian students and opposition leaders are in the streets of Tehran because of American enticement. Many in the Arab world would privately cheer if Ahmadinejad’s government fell or if the Iranian nuclear sites were destroyed. The lack of Obama leadership and assistance to the opposition inside Iran is now prohibiting the fall of a dictatorship on the brink. When White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs complains more often about former Vice President Dick Cheney than about Ahmadinejad it sends the wrong message to the Iranians, Chinese and Russians.

Team Obama’s robotic and bland pronouncements citing general themes and re-cycled talking points from the Bush Administration will not stop Iran’s march toward a nuclear weapon. It is time for even Obama to admit that he failed to convince the Iranians to give up their illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons and has failed to motivate the cheering crowds of Germany and Egypt to do more than celebrate the kinder, gentler, weaker American President. There may still be time to make sure Iran doesn’t acquire the nuclear weapons that they will surely use, but it will require quick and sustained action by the White House. An immediate combination of paralyzing UN sanctions, aggressive support for the struggling opposition inside Iran, firm pressure on Europeans to implement the current financial sanctions and a credible use of a military deterrence must all be realized – and soon.

obama’s state of the union: “it’s not my fault…”

obama’s sotu: “it’s not my fault…”

“It’s Not My Fault But I’ll Keep Spending”

It is hard to believe a President that says “…I am not interested in re-litigating the past” after he just spent 60 minutes of his First State of the Union Address re-litigating the past and blaming Bush for his problems.

It is hard to take a President seriously when he speaks 116 words describing how he wants to get rid of nuclear weapons but only 38 words uttered on the biggest violator of those principles – Iran. It is hard to understand why Obama and his Administration have wasted this past year by not increasing the sanctions on Iran and building on the Bush Administration’s 3 UN resolutions sanctioning Iran for their continued illegal uranium enrichment.

It’s hard to take a President seriously when he says we will take the fight to al Qaeda but then brings al Qaeda to the U.S. to be tried in an American court. It’s hard to understand a President who sends the lawyers to a terrorist to tell him that he has the right to remain silent but then brags that he is tough on terrorists.

And if you thought Obama had learned a lesson from the recent Scott Brown election in Massachusetts, think again. From the moment he started his address to the Nation, Obama made it perfectly clear that all of his problems were Bush’s fault.

“One year ago I took office in the midst of 2 wars, a bad economy…” blah, blah, blah. “One year later the worst of the storm has passed but the devastation remains….,” Obama said in the first minutes of his speech. The problem with the President’s continued excuse is that since he has taken office unemployment has surged, the deficit has skyrocketed and Washington’s spending has gotten even more out of control. But to hear the President speak, his reckless spending has had nothing to do with our financial problems or highest unemployment rates in decades. But time has run out on Obama’s excuses. The American people are fed up and the President’s poll numbers are in the tank. The Democrats have had an overwhelming majority in the House and Senate and yet, Obama’s first year has been one of the worst first year’s for any President in history. For all of Obama’s big talk about change, very little has been done despite the fact that his Party controls all of Washington and has the ability to make change immediately. It doesn’t make sense for the President to blame Republicans for his first year failures. He has only his majority party to blame.

If you thought Obama was ready to stop spending billions of dollars we don’t have, think again. Tonight, Obama went on a spending spree that would make Nancy Pelosi happy. The President’s new #1 focus is now on creating jobs, he says. It’s no longer healthcare. More than 42 minutes into his speech not a word had been uttered about healthcare. But there was plenty said on how to spend your tax dollars even though we are already behind on paying our bills. There was $30 billion for community banks to give to small businesses, billions for infrastructure projects to put unions to work, millions for clean energy businesses, millions for community colleges, millions for more pell grants, millions for child care credits, billions for new home owners, millions for farmers and veterans and the list continues. While a case can be made for helping each and every one of these groups, there has been no regard for who will pay for these new programs or whether now is the time to spend this money.

As Obama’s speech continued, there was more blaming Bush for the problems and more spending from his Administration. But what was most shocking to watch was President Obama double down on partisanship. Obama wasn’t humble or conciliatory, he was antagonistic and cocky. But for a President who promised change and has the votes in Congress to deliver it, it was a disappointing night. It was more of the same from Washington.

And then an hour into his speech the President suddenly changed his tone. It was like Obama suddenly remembered that the State of Massachusetts just voted for a Republican to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat. President Obama became the outreacher-in-chief. If Obama had delivered the last 20 minutes of his speech first, and cut out the political jabs from the first 60 minutes of the speech then he would have been better received.

In the end, Obama speech reminded us that he isn’t leading his party or the Nation. For a President starting his term with a massive majority in Congress and sky-high approval ratings, he has squandered a ton of political capital with nothing to show for it.

obama’s approach is scary grenell interview on foreign policy

Grenell: Obama’s Terrorism Approach ‘Scary’

Tuesday, 26 Jan 2010 03:43 PM Article Font Size

By: Dan Weil

Richard Grenell, former spokesman for the U.S. Representative to the United Nations calls President Obama’s approach to terrorism “scary.”

“Here’s a guy who clearly wants to be the most popular guy in the room,” Grenell, who served President George W. Bush, told Newsmax.TV’s Kathleen Walter. “He doesn’t want to make tough decisions that anger people.”

The former diplomat criticized Obama for treating accused terrorists as civilians.

“Scott Brown, the winner of the Massachusetts senate race said it best when he said, I don’t want to give them a bunch of lawyers. I want to give these terrorists a fight. I think that’s how most Americans view this situation.”

Grenell is particularly upset that the Christmas day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was read his rights after being taken from the plane.

“Someone said to this guy who just tried to blow up a plane, ‘You have the right to remain silent,’” Grenell noted.

“I would have said you don’t have the right to remain silent. I want to go over here, and I want to knock you around mentally until you start spilling some information.”

“It’s important to find out who sent and financed Abdulmutallab, so that we can stop future threats, Grenell points out.

Discussing the situation in Haiti, he stresses that the United States must stay involved for the long term.

“We can do anything we want when we set our minds to it,” Grenell said. “We are clearly focused on Haiti right now. I think the Haitian people will benefit from that.”

The U.N. will be of no help, having failed miserably in its 17 years there, he says.

“Right now we’re just dealing in Haiti on an emergency basis. We’re going to have to quickly switch into development and operational issues.” Our government will have to weather criticism that we’re too involved with another country, Grenell says.

“If we want to change that country for the better, we’re going to have to look for some economic development. It’s a long, expensive, messy road. But in the end I think Americans will want that to happen in Haiti.”

See Video: Click on link at the top of this entry.

new study shows susan rice isn’t engaging the un

New Study Suggests U.S. Ambassador Rice Isn’t Engaging the UN

We actually heard from Susan Rice more during the presidential campaign when she was a foreign policy adviser to then-candidate Barack Obama than we have over the last year, when she has been representing us at the UN. It has been just over one year since Rice was confirmed by the United States Senate to be the Permanent Representative to the UN and she so far has been wildly inattentive in New York. While Rice has been active in the social scene of Washington and The White House, a new study released by the uber-serious Security Council Report suggests that this past year has been the most inactive Security Council since 1991. For an Administration that promised to utilize the UN and improve our reputation around the world, its dinner-party circuit strategy isn’t making America more secure.

Much of the blame for that belongs to Rice and her habitual silence. Rice has not conducted the hard negotiations nor done the sometimes unpopular work of engaging the UN on the United States’ priority issues. When Rice does attend UN negotiations, she is all too willing to avoid confrontation. She has instead opted to spend time networking in Washington and making nice with her colleagues in New York. While other foreign Ambassadors speak fondly of Rice and her easy ways, she has been a weak negotiator for the American people.

This lack of American leadership has resulted in the general Security Council inactivity spotlighted in the new study by the Columbia University-affiliated Security Council Report.

The Report says:

“In 2009 the total number of Council decisions (resolutions and presidential statements) decreased by 26 percent from 2008. The number dropped from 113 to 83, the lowest level since 1991.

Resolutions dropped from 65 to 48 and presidential statements from 48 to 35.

This significant trend is also mirrored in a matching reduction in formal Council activity. The number of formal Council meetings decreased by 20 percent, from 243 to 194.

The number of press statements, which is one indicator of Council decision making at the informal level, also decreased by 23 percent, from 47 to 36.”

Rice has been spending several days a week in Washington with her larger than normal DC-based staff and spending less time with the 200-plus employees who work for her in New York. While Rice launched her tenure with a glamour spread in Vogue Magazine by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz showing her kicking back in an empty Security Council Chamber, she seems to not enjoy the Chamber when it’s full of diplomats. During the recent Haiti crisis, Rice was not only absent from the Security Council vote to expand the UN’s peacekeeping operation but she also failed to call an emergency meeting in the immediate aftermath to request more help. In fact, 7 days after the Haiti earthquake left tens of thousands of people in the streets without food or shelter, it was UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon that came to the Security Council to request more troops – the American Ambassador hadn’t bothered.

Rice has gambled this past year that keeping America unengaged at the UN is the best way to keep the Obama Administration and herself popular with other countries. But while the newly released report suggests that the Security Council has been cordial and pleasant in 2009, the number of crisis situations, international conflicts and peacekeeping operations haven’t decreased. No meaningful improvement has been seen to the international issues monitored by the Security Council; in fact, the study suggests that some situations have gotten worse. Without American leadership at the UN, countries just continue to talk and socialize and spend taxpayer dollars. The Security Council Report also highlights the fact that fewer decisions were made by the Security Council in 2009 than in previous years. Tough decisions are never popular to make and even less popular to force upon the UN. But the American people expect their representative to utilize the UN to further America’s priority issues and demand that their money is spent wisely.

For Rice, the UN budget reform efforts started by the Bush Administration have been too controversial to continue. Rice has avoided tough negotiations and public feuds and has made little to no effort to engage her colleagues on reforming the UN budget process. U.S. citizens pay 22% of the UN’s regular budget, 26% of the UN Peacekeeping Budget and give millions more in voluntary contributions to a plethora of other UN programs. They deserve an ambassador who doesn’t duck even a messy public fight with other countries looking to spend American taxpayers’ dollars.

According to several UN veteran reporters and some US Mission staff, Rice has been missing from crucial negotiations on Iran’s continued enrichment of uranium, too. She’s failed to build on Bush Administration progress on sanctioning Iran. While the Russians and Chinese have historically complained publicly about a vote forced upon them, in the end they voted for such resolutions. Despite multiple deadlines missed by the Iranian government, Rice and her team have so far been unsuccessful in getting a single sanctions resolution. The irony that the French are tougher than the Americans on the Iran issue has prompted former Bush Administration officials to say, “thank God for the French”.

Although Obama and Rice campaigned on the promise to restore America’s reputation internationally, they have chosen the easy path of popularity over progress. Ambassadors will always be loved at the UN when they ignore the important debates and discussions that will keep America strong and safe. It is short-sighted and dangerous to choose likability over the safety and security of those who actually pay your salary. And one sure way to weaken the UN is to placate it, neglect it and marginalize it, as Rice has done this past year. The UN and the American people deserve better.

obama’s foreign policy year in review

al-jazeera/ a year of little change

Barack Obama’s First Year in Foreign Policy

This past year has not been a successful year for the 44th President of the United States. Although the Barack Obama Administration has had the incredible luxury of having its own political party – the Democrats – control the House of Representatives and the Senate by wide margins, there has been little progress on domestic and international issues. Obama and his team have the ability to pass any bill and create any new law they want without relying on a single Republican vote. And yet, the Obama Administration has failed to capitalize on that advantage. As Obama came into office, he promised lots of change. But so far, not much has changed. Domestically, the United States is facing the largest unemployment in decades and the American budget deficit is at an all time high. Internationally, the United States may now appear to be more popular but it’s largely because we aren’t asking countries to do much these days. The Obama team isn’t leading the world. They have chosen the easy path of non-confrontation. Copenhagen is proof. Sadly, the Administration has confused popularity with progress. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy priorities over the last year:


Consecutive United Nations Security Council resolutions on Iran were passed during the Bush Administration and the pressure was placed on the Iranian government to stop enriching uranium. Resolution 1737 imposed strict sanctions on the Government of Iran and was passed unanimously by the Security Council on December 23, 2006 after weeks of negotiations and stalling tactics from China and Russia. Resolutions 1696, 1747 and 1803, all passed during the Bush Administration, kept the pressure mounting on Iran to abide by the international community’s demands to suspend all nuclear enrichment activity. Despite grumblings from Security Council members about having to vote for such measures, the Bush Administration forced the votes and in the end was able to get multiple resolutions passed with unanimous support. Where Bush successfully isolated the Government of Iran, the Obama Administration has eased the pressure on them and the members of the Security Council. Instead of building on all of the work that had been done to negotiate sanctions, the Obama Administration pushed the “reset button” and started over, thereby releasing the mounting pressure. The Russians and Chinese were relieved that UN resolution negotiations were not proceeding with urgency. China and Russia even complimented the Obama Administration as a group of “good listeners” and the new process as “respectful”. The Government of Iran, too, was pleased to have more time to enrich uranium and less pressure to stop their delivery system testing. The Obama Administration hasn’t produced a single UN Security Council resolution on Iran since it took office – the last one passed by President Bush a full 15 months ago. The Obama Administration’s policy on Iran has been a complete failure and has only strengthened Iran’s resolve.


President Obama’s December announcement that he will send 30,000 additional American troops to Afghanistan was a welcomed sign for the peoples of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Although the Obama team spent too much time fretting over their decision to add the troops because it would upset activists in the Democratic Party, Obama’s decision was a courageous one. Democratic leaders, however, are not pleased with the President’s decision. Nancy Pelosi recently said that it will be up to President Obama to make his own case for the troop increase because lawmakers are skeptical and Dennis Kucinich has vowed to offer a bill that would pull all American troops from Afghanistan immediately. President Obama is now in the uncomfortable position of having to count on Republicans to support his troop increase decision and give him one of his few victories this year. Obama’s announcement now makes the war in Afghanistan his war to win or lose. In Pakistan, the Obama team has a mixed record over the last year. While making the Afghanistan announcement in conjunction with a new robust strategy to confront terrorists in Pakistan, the Obama team has signaled their willingness to think strategically in the region. For America, a successful Afghanistan strategy can only be achieved when al-qaeda and the Taliban are wiped out in both countries – Pakistan and Afghanistan. Afghanistan alone is of no strategic value to the United States. While we hope that democracy can be achieved for the people of Afghanistan and that they will be able to have a greater quality of life, these pursuits of human rights and development should be led by the United Nations. Pakistan, however, is a more important strategic partner for the United States and Obama has yet to recognize it. Ensuring that the Government of Pakistan is able to deal with its extremists should be a top priority for America. So far, Obama has not been able to develop a strategy to deal with President Asif Zadari and the growing anti-Americanism in his country.


Candidate Obama promised to pull troops from Iraq as soon as he took office. But President Obama learned that it wasn’t possible. Republicans were pleased that Obama took the advice of his military advisors and changed his policy but his Democratic colleagues have continued to complain about a campaign promise that is still unfulfilled. In trying to capitalize on the growing American frustration over the lack of progress in Iraq, candidate Obama outmaneuvered Hilary Clinton and then John McCain. The many Americans who voted for Obama because they wanted the troops to come home from Iraq have also been disappointed. But the Administration is gambling that an emphasis on a troop increase in Afghanistan and a new robust strategy for Pakistan will insulate them from charges of military weakness in Iraq.

Israel and Palestine

Perhaps the one issue that brought Arabs around the world the most hope for progress with the election of Barack Obama was the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Even some in America were hopeful that Obama would be able to reassure the Palestinians and America’s historical tie with Israel would be sufficient enough to bring the parties together to form a permanent peace. But Barack Obama stumbled early on with his Cairo speech and his directive on settlements. He failed to challenge Arabs to act during his Cairo speech and it was seen by Israel and many in America as a missed opportunity. His public instruction that Israel cease all settlement activity was also a misstep. American Presidents can privately cajole and push the parties to negotiate but no American President can dictate to the parties what should be done. Obama must learn that the Palestinians and the Israelis must each bargain and agree to the terms of any peace deal on their own if it is to last.

obama’s popularity isn’t translating into progress

huffington post/front page

Obama’s Popularity Isn’t Translating Into Progress

The White House staff should never allow Barack Obama to go to Copenhagen again. The last time Obama went to Copenhagen the United States got thrown out of the 2016 Olympic bidding process in the first round. This last week, Obama went to Copenhagen for the UN Climate Change Conference and he lost an international agreement on one of his priority issues. If Obama can’t convince the international community to go along with one of his signature issues then the President’s clout isn’t what some Americans claim it is. Other than healthcare reform, President Obama has talked about global warming and climate change issues more than almost any other issue during the campaign and since taking office. The Copenhagen disaster is a real sign of Obama’s shallow influence internationally.

The biggest news coming out of Copenhagen, but not covered by the American media, is that Obama hasn’t been able to convince other Countries to act even though he is the most popular Head of State. One year into Obama’s Presidency and the international community has yet to take action on any U.S. priority. You have to wonder why world leaders claim to love him but won’t follow him.

Obama’s popularity and charisma failed to convince the world to bring the Olympics to the U.S., to sign the Copenhagen agreement, to produce new additional NATO troops for Afghanistan or Iraq, to produce any additional action on confronting Iran’s continued uranium enrichment and even to convince his own Democratic party to support some of his priority issues.

Candidate Obama received the media’s overt support throughout the primary and general elections and became an international super star. Today, Barack or Michelle Obama continue to appear on large and medium sized magazine covers from health and fitness publications to news periodicals to cooking and sports magazines and in nearly every language.

But Copenhagen has shown that we shouldn’t confuse Obama’s popularity with progress. He is clearly popular in other countries but it is because he isn’t asking them to act. Or if he is, he isn’t strong enough to convince them. They love the easy ride.

Iran’s illegal enrichment of uranium is a perfect example of Obama’s weakness. During the Bush Administration, President Bush and his team were able to isolate Iran and organize the international community to produce Security Council sanctions and a total of 3 UN resolutions. Although forcing the Security Council to negotiate and ultimately vote on tough resolutions is never easy and always unpopular, it is an important leadership test. China, Russia and others weren’t happy to be forced to confront Iran – but ultimately Iran sanctions were passed with unanimous support.
The Obama team has chosen to take the easy and popular path. There has been no increase in sanctions or additional UN resolutions on Iran since the Bush Administration ended. In fact, multiple deadlines have passed without repercussions for the Government of Iran. Enrichment continues at multiple sites in Iran even though the UN Security Council has demanded the Government suspend enrichment with verification.

Obama’s popularity may produce large crowds and warm compliments, but one thing I learned while serving 8 years at the United Nations is to be suspicious when you are the most popular guy in a room full of international negotiators.

Grenell on iran

Sanctions may be in store if Iran rebuffs nuclear offer
The United States and Europe are poised to seek harsher U.N. financial sanctions against Iran if it fails to meet this weekend’s deadline to accept an international offer of negotiations in exchange for freezing its nuclear program, diplomats said Friday.
It’s uncertain how, or even whether, Iran will formally respond to the offer. Authorities in Tehran have given no sign that they’re willing to accept the offer of a “freeze for a freeze” – to cap Iran’s uranium enrichment at current levels in exchange for a moratorium on further sanctions against it.
A snub by Iran could open a new chapter in the long-running confrontation as President Bush enters his final months in office. While diplomats plan to push for new sanctions, Israel’s leaders and Bush administration hawks, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, argue that military strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities must be considered.
“It’s clear (Iran) has not complied with the international community’s demand to stop enriching uranium. We, the United States, will work with our allies to come up with another resolution in the Security Council,” Richard Grenell, a spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, told McClatchy.
What new sanctions will be sought hasn’t yet been decided, U.S. and European officials said. In the past, it’s sometimes taken months to get agreement on new U.N. action from China and Russia, who are unenthusiastic about sanctions.
But one idea under discussion is to target Iran’s reliance on imported gasoline and other petroleum products. Despite its vast oil reserves, Iran lacks refining capacity and imports much of its gasoline. Sanctions could target shipping directly or dissuade insurers from insuring shipments to Iran.
The idea has the backing of some Israeli and U.S. officials but is controversial, because it could hurt Iran’s citizens as much as it would their leaders.
The international community offered the “freeze for a freeze” to Iran two weeks ago at a Geneva meeting in which a senior U.S. diplomat, Undersecretary of State William Burns, was present for nuclear talks for the first time.
Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States offered to suspend consideration of further sanctions for six weeks in return for Iran not expanding its enrichment of uranium that can be used for nuclear weapons.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said this week that the country wouldn’t be dissuaded from its nuclear program, which Iran says is aimed at generating electricity, not making weapons. Diplomats at Iran’s U.N. mission weren’t available for comment Friday.
“I would say the Iranians sent mixed messages this week, and it’s really hard to tell what the bottom line is,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said. “And so we’ll need to wait and see if they do respond formally.”
“You never know what the Iranians are going to do,” said a European diplomat, who requested anonymity to discuss diplomatic options.
While State Department officials say that there’s still time for diplomacy to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Israel’s leaders – who view an Iranian nuclear weapon as a threat to the country’s existence – are increasingly blunt in warning that time is running out.
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz warned Friday that Iran is on the verge of a nuclear breakthrough.
“The window of influence is becoming smaller and, I believe, is about to close,” said Mofaz, a possible candidate to replace outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
“Even diplomacy has its limits,” he said at an appearance at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
The United Nations has imposed three previous rounds of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. They’ve failed to persuade Tehran to change course, but U.S. officials argue that they’ve compounded Iran’s economic problems and prompted a debate among Iran’s fractured leadership over the country’s course.
(McClatchy Newspapers correspondent Jonathan S. Landay contributed to this report.)

Richard Grenell responds to the government of iran

U.N. council must increase sanctions on Iran: U.S
By Louis CharbonneauSun Aug 3, 8:20 PM ET
The United States said on Sunday that Iran has left the U.N. Security Council no choice but to increase sanctions on the Islamic Republic for ignoring demands that it halt sensitive nuclear activities.
The U.S. declaration came a day after an informal deadline lapsed for Iran to respond to an offer from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia for talks on its disputed nuclear program.
“It is clear that the government of Iran has not complied with the international community’s demand to stop enriching uranium and isn’t even interested in trying,” said Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations.
“They leave the Security Council no choice but to increase the sanctions, as called for in the last resolution passed.”
Tehran has not formally responded to the offer. But Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Saturday that Iran would not back down in its nuclear dispute with the powers, which have supported three rounds of U.N. Security Council sanctions.
“In whichever negotiation we take part … it is unequivocally with the view to the realization of Iran’s nuclear right and the Iranian nation would not retreat one iota from its rights,” Ahmadinejad said in a statement.
The U.S. statement was noticed by oil traders. Concern about Iran’s nuclear program was one of the reasons the price of oil rose by more than $1 to over $126 a barrel shortly before 7 p.m. EDT.
The West accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian power program. Iran, the world’s fourth-largest oil producer, says its uranium enrichment drive is aimed solely at generating electricity.
A spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said in Brussels that he and Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, would discuss the six powers’ offer soon. She gave no further details.
Western officials gave Tehran two weeks from July 19 to respond to their offer not to impose more U.N. sanctions on Iran if it froze any expansion of its nuclear work.
That suggested a deadline of August 2 but Iran, which has repeatedly ruled out curbing any of its nuclear activities, dismissed the idea of having two weeks to reply.
The five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany have appointed Solana to be their liaison with Iran.
Israel and the United States have hinted that they could attack Iran’s nuclear facilities if it remains defiant. Speculation about a potential attack on Iran has been causing jitters on oil markets in recent months.
But the founder and head of the global intelligence company Stratfor, George Friedman, told weekly magazine Barron’s that the chance of a U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran is slim because the risks to the world economy far outweigh possible benefits.
The U.S. delegation at the United Nations might have to put some pressure on the rest of the council to discuss Iran again. Diplomats from some of the 14 other council members have said they would prefer not to enter into negotiations on another round of sanctions against Iran for now.
One of the main reasons for council members’ reluctance to take up Iran now is the U.S. presidential election in November and what it could mean for U.S. policy on Iran.
U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama, a Democrat, has criticized Republican President George W. Bush’s handling of the issue and has promised greater engagement with Tehran.
Republican candidate John McCain has criticized Obama’s suggestion that he would pursue direct talks with Tehran.
The other reason for the council’s reluctance is that Russia and China do not want to discuss sanctions now. Diplomats say the two veto-wielding council members want to give Iran time to consider the offer of economic and political incentives in exchange for a suspension of enrichment.
Moscow and Beijing reluctantly backed all three rounds of U.N. sanctions against Iran but pushed hard to try to water them down beforehand in negotiations on the resolutions.
Separately, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in Tehran on Sunday that Damascus was not mediating or bringing a message from the West to Iran over its disputed nuclear plans but could play a role to help defuse the issue in future.
Assad made his comments during a two-day trip to Iran that followed a visit to Paris in July, when he told French President Nicolas Sarkozy he would use his good ties with Tehran to help resolve the atomic stand-off.