The Obama administration is pushing to carve out an exemption for China and other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council from legislation pending in the Senate and the House that would tighten sanctions on companies doing business in Iran, administration and congressional sources said.
China has balked at supporting a fourth round of U.N. sanctions on Iran. That has emboldened countries on the council, such as Brazil, Turkey and Lebanon, to also express opposition.
The administration’s plan in effect would label China as a country cooperating in the U.S.-led drive to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and appears to be part of a broader strategy to prod Beijing to vote for a new sanctions resolution. The three previous resolutions enjoyed broad support in the 15-member council, so any result that includes several abstentions or no votes would be viewed as a major diplomatic setback.
But the administration’s lobbying for a Chinese exemption has raised eyebrows in Congress and angered several allies, most notably South Korea and Japan, which would not be exempted under the administration’s plan.
“We’re absolutely flabbergasted,” said one senior official from a foreign country friendly to the United States. “Tell me what exactly have the Chinese done to deserve this?” Japan and South Korea, which are U.S. allies, have raised the issue with the Obama administration.