Sometimes a journalist grasps an intricate situation and explains it in just one simple sentence. Here is what the distinguished Timesman John Vinocur has to say in today’s International Herald Tribune about Obama’s policy of sanctions:

The United States’ notions of U.N. sanctions on Iran have devolved over the past months from crippling ones to ones that bite to the currently described smart ones, which, although packaged with the words tough and strong might not be hard-nosed enough to give the mullahs a half-hour’s lost sleep.

Now what?

As it happens, more of the same. David E. Sanger and Mark Landler report in this morning’s Times that, after a meeting between Obama and President Hu Jintao, American officials reported that the Chinese government would support international efforts to “ratchet up the pressure on Iran” to keep it from developing a full nuclear weapon. George W. Bush also fell for this line and was disappointed when Beijing went into full gear to water down the sanctions. Having already watered down the sanctions against Tehran himself, Obama hasn’t much to which he can look forward. Expect perhaps more watering down.

This is a soup so watered down, in fact, that all we can conclude is that Obama doesn’t know how to cook.