Jeffrey LewisDid Ahmadinejad Help or Hurt in NYC?

You really have to read the foreign press if you want to understand the diplomacy surrounding Iran’s nuclear program.

Case in point: What was impact of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech to the UN?

The US press, led Carol Giacomo and Sue Pleming t Reuters and Dafna Linzer at the Washington Post picked up the spin from US diplomat Nick Burns, who said:

The effect of that speech will likely be a toughening of the international response to Iran because it was seen by so many countries as overly harsh, negative and uncompromising

Yet both stories are based on an interview with Burns, with only Linzer making an effort to talk to a “European diplomat”—this is like asking Ken Mehlman to assess the impact of a Howard Dean speech.

The foreign press, in this case AFP and Iran’s Mehr, have made an effort to count the votes for Security Council referral and ask how diplomats from countries that haven’t decided how to vote think the speech will play out.

The sense of both those articles is the opposite—that the US and Europe are overplaying their hand on Iran.

Mehr, for example, made an effort to count the votes for referreal and finds the US is still short:

Currently 12 countries, the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Slovakia, Portugal, Belgium, and Poland, will definitely support a resolution that calls for restricting Irans uranium enrichment-related activities. Mexico will probably join them. However, Japan, South Korea, Italy, and Argentina could adopt positions closer to those of that group under certain circumstances.

However, the MNA correspondent says Irans active diplomatic efforts in recent days have gained momentum, and its position has been consolidated in the IAEA. Now, about 11 countries, China, India, Algeria, South Africa, Ghana, Tunisia, Yemen, Vietnam, Venezuela, Nigeria, and Sri Lanka support IAEA-supervised peaceful nuclear activities by Tehran and the settlement of the remaining ambiguities about Irans nuclear program with the agency. Singapore and Pakistan will probably join this group. Russia can also be added to the supporters of Iran. Meanwhile, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and Argentina can be regarded as swing votes, but they will not abstain. An abstention would be equivalent to voting against the resolution.

If no country switches sides during the IAEA Board meeting, the fate of any resolution will be unclear. If Russia and India strongly support the NAM grouping, the advocates of a resolution against Iran will most likely face defeat for the first time.

Mehr concludes the speech—in what it calls the “New York shock”—hardened existing attitudes rather than converting anyone.

Similarly, Michael Adler with AFP interviewed a non-aligned diplomat to the IAEA who claims the EU draft resolution was “a response to Ahmadinejad’s speech in New York” and “kind of tit for tat stuff and in its present form not acceptable to anyone.”

I am not saying Burns is wrong … but he isn’t exactly a disinterested party.