Putin, as it turns out, will visit Tehran next month for a summit of Caspian Sea regional leaders and meet with Iranian officials. That would seem to make Russian support for new sanctions on Tehran especially unlikely in the short run.
Says one skeptical administration official, "The Russians have been very successful at stalling." This official asserts that Burns agreed to relatively weak sanctions in the previous sanctions resolution on the strength of a Russian commitment to back stronger penalties promptly if Iran refused to stop enriching uranium within 90 days of that resolution's adoption. That was about three months ago. "The Russians hoodwinked us," asserted that official. "We're back to square one."
The Chinese, say U.S. policymakers, are taking a similar wait-and-see stand on more sanctions. Chinese officials welcomed the ElBaradei plan and are urging Iran to answer all of the IAEA's questions.
France, under new president Nicolas Sarkozy, appears to have moved closer to the U.S. position, supporting a rapid move to stronger sanctions and positioning itself to champion non-U.N. European sanctions. Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has warned that Europe needs to prepare itself for the possibility of war if Iran develops atomic bombs.
Britain is said to remain a steady backer of new penalties.
On Germany, however, there is growing concern by some U.S. officials. They suggest that its extensive economic ties to Iran and its constant calls for maintaining Security Council unity are dimming the ardor with which it is pursuing additional sanctions. "They're not implementing the current sanctions on the books," says one skeptical U.S. official. Some European diplomats have also suggested that Germany prefers to wait for ElBaradei to declare the success or failure of his work plan for Iranian cooperation.
The Germans, however, say they haven't softened their stand on Iran. "We are on board. We are interested in pushing the question of sanctions forward quickly," says one official, adding that Germany is "part of the driving force for a new [U.N.] resolution."
The Bush administration will be urging the Germans—and others—to do just that.