"The purpose of sanctions is to bring the Iranian side to the negotiating table," said Li Baodong, China's U.N. ambassador, this week, explaining how Beijing could simultaneously support a new uranium-swap deal brokered by Brazil and Turkey and endorse new U.N. sanctions. The Obama Administration appears to have convinced China of its view that sanctions pressure is integral to achieving a diplomatic compromise. That two-track concept of combining punitive pressures with diplomatic engagement may also partly explain the U.S. slap-down of the deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil — even though that agreement may have been pursued at the encouragement of the Obama Administration.
Having likely been caught off guard by Iran's yes to a deal substantially similar to the one it turned down last October, Washington rushed to reclaim the initiative by putting on the table a new package of U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran, which Washington said had the backing of erstwhile holdouts Russia and China. And perhaps reflective of the Administration's desire to head off criticism from Capitol Hill, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday, May 17, that the new sanctions resolution was "as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide."