Iran's nuclear aspirations have sorely tested the patience of the international community. Last week, Tehran announced it had begun processing uranium to a higher level of enrichment, purportedly to produce fuel for a medical reactor.
That news was met with widespread condemnation from the international community, the Obama administration in particular. The White House is developing a series of sanctions that take aim at the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran. The goal of the sanctions is to so dramatically increase the costs of doing business with Iran that businesses and nations cut off ties.
The sanctions need the support of Russia and China, which has been problematic in the past because they are two of Iran's major trading partners. However. Russia may be backing away from its previous objections as it has becomes increasingly frustrated with Iran's recalcitrance. China says it would prefer to continue negotiating with Iran.
The United States' relationship with China is complicated by many factors. The United States depends on China to keep North Korea in check. The United States and China are strong trading partners. But tensions exist over Internet freedom, President Barack Obama's plans to meet with the Dalai Lama, and Google's announcement that its systems have been hacked by sources in mainland China.
But China, which buys most of its oil from the Middle East, can ill-afford the disruption that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose. If Israel pre-emptively bombed Iran's nuclear facilities, oil prices would skyrocket.
Matters have been further complicated by Tehran's information blockade to silence anti-government protesters as Iran marks the 31st anniversary of the country's revolution. The country's telephone network was reportedly taken down, text messages blocked and Internet communication "throttled," U.S. government sources said.
As State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters, "It is clear the Iranian government fears its own people."
Although the State Department has been careful to say that the planned sanctions against Iran are not intended to create such dissension among Iranians that they attempt to overthrow the government, the information blockade is yet another example of recent moves by the government to restrict freedoms of assembly and expression.
The international community must exert greater pressure on Iran to adopt a new course. Tehran's nuclear ambitions place the region and the Iranian people in grave danger.
It is hoped that China can be convinced that the time to negotiate with Iran has passed. It is time for China to join the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) in leveling tough sanctions against Iran.