YOU win some, you lose some. The saying applies to international relations as well as to sport. Yesterday the United States won the votes of China and Russia for its UN Security Council resolution on sanctions against Iran but lost the votes of Brazil and Turkey. Who would have predicted such an outcome six months ago when Hillary Clinton began her lobbying for a new slate of sanctions for Iran's non-compliance with those imposed on its nuclear programme by four previous UN resolutions since 2006? The rare unanimity of the five permanent and veto-bearing Security Council members in a 12-2 vote was achieved only with important concessions to China and Russia on a number of issues, particularly the exclusion of Iran's energy sector from direct sanctions. Nonetheless, the fact that the BIg Five were able to agree on a range of measures aimed principally at the military and trading powers of Iran's Revolutionary Guard will have been noted in Tehran as a warning that it should not push its nuclear luck too far.

The negative votes in the Security Council by Brazil and Turkey should probably be interpreted as an expression of their anger over the way in which their recent joint negotiations with Iran for a refined-uranium deal to reduce the risk of nuclear weapon production was so brusquely dismissed as inadequate and irrelevant by the United States.