Obama outreach in Asia keeps paying off

OBAMA OUTREACH IN ASIA KEEPS PAYING OFF…. Threats of sanctions against Iran have rarely been effective, in large part because Iran assumed, correctly, that Russia and China would oppose punitive measures.

President Obama and his foreign policy team have invested considerable energy in changing this equation. There’s ample evidence their efforts are paying off.

The United Nations nuclear watchdog demanded Friday that Iran immediately freeze operations at a once secret uranium enrichment plant, a sharp rebuke that bore added weight because it was endorsed by Russia and China.

The governing body of the watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, meeting in Vienna, also expressed “serious concern” about potential military aspects of Iran’s nuclear program.

Administration officials held up the statement as a victory for President Obama’s diplomatic efforts to coax both Russia and China to increase the pressure on Iran. They said that they had begun working on a sanctions package, which would be brought before the United Nations Security Council if Iran did not meet the year-end deadline imposed by Mr. Obama to make progress on the issue.

Now, yesterday’s vote was largely symbolic, and did not come with any actual punishment for Iran. Nevertheless, the vote, the toughest against Iran in nearly four years, signaled intense international pressure on Tehran. This was also a vote Obama and his team knew was coming up, and knew that Russia and China would be inclined to oppose. U.S. officials, including the president, worked diligently to persuade Moscow and Beijing, and the encouraging result suggests having grown-ups running the executive branch again is a good idea.

Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said China’s support on Iran and its decision to set a climate change goal on Thursday showed that Mr. Obama’s trip to Beijing was producing results despite criticism of the visit. “This is the product of engagement,” Mr. Emanuel said, adding that it was “a direct result” of the trip.

In other words, U.S. political reporters have spent two weeks berating the White House for an unproductive Asian trip lacking in “deliverables.” Those reporters’ criticism seems increasingly misguided with each passing day.

James Fallows, who’s been deeply critical of the domestic media’s coverage of the president’s week-long trip to Asia, added yesterday, “Will wait to see if this weekend’s talk shows or opinion sections offer any ‘hey, wait a minute’ reconsideration of their unanimous judgment last week about the way the Obama team was manhandled and stonewalled by the Chinese. I’ll wait, but I won’t hold my breath…. Seriously, when does an official part of the chattering class — one of the weekend talkers, someone from the leading newspapers — look back on these past two weeks in journalism’s effort to represent reality and ask how the dominant narrative could have been so wrong, and wrong in a way that was easily noticeable at the time? Just curious.”