Some genius created a pair of extraordinarily funny videos mocking the IAEA “super inspectors.”
You may be muttering “But you think the IAEA is much maligned and Iran probably did have a nuclear weapons program! How can you find this funny?”
Well, sometimes the line between laughter and tears isn’t so clear.
I have to admit, the author is far more sympathetic to the Iranians than I am. There is no fair comparison with what happened in Iraq. I do believe that Iran had a covert nuclear weapons program at the time Natanz was outed, a program that Iran “halted” (a difficult word) sometime in 2003. I generally think this shows that Iran is sensitive to pressure and observe that, when pressure decreases, Tehran tends to engage in “salami slicing” to strengthen its position. I still believe that as much blame as the Bush Administration deserves for mishandling the Tehran’s nuclear program, it was Tehran that miscalculated in August 2005 by breaking the seals at Isfahan — in effect, slicing off too big a piece of salami — resulting in tit-for-tat behavior that left Iran referred to the Security Council and enriching uranium.
Being clear-eyed about Iranian tactics doesn’t mean taking all this personally. After all, states are not persons. In Iran’s position, I would recommend doing exactly the same thing. The goal for US policy is to find incentives that encourage Tehran to do something different.
The Obama Administration hasn’t been committed to solving this problem owing to a sense of fatalism and a bit of political timidity. Early on, Administration officials expressed neither hope for a negotiated solution nor stomach for a military one. Instead, they seemed to emphasize avoiding any steps that might “legitimize” enrichment by Iran. The Administration seemed perfectly satisfied to make the Iranians look bad. The low point in this charade was the Zombie Fuel Swap, which I still believe was a cynical effort by the Administration to “teach” Brazil and Turkey that Iran could not be trusted. (And, I might add, one that backfired when Brazil and Turkey secured precisely the deal outlined by the Administration, forcing the White House to pull the rug out from under Brasilia and Ankara.)
This policy minimizes the political and diplomatic costs on a day-to-day basis, but will ultimately result in the worst possible outcome. This is essentially the foreign policy equivalent of the Facebook group called “Bibi don’t start a war with Iran until after Madonna’s show on May 29.” Say what you will about the Material Girl’s fans, at least they want to delay the inevitable for a good reason.
Both Tehran and Washington, to say nothing of our friends in Israel, seem to be hardening their positions, pushing us mindlessly toward some sort of military confrontation that leaves Iran isolated but in possession of nuclear weapons.
Avoiding this outcome would require that someone provide Tehran with a way out that doesn’t involve possession of a nuclear weapon — that’s why I generally supported the much maligned “Action Plan,” thought the Zombie Fuel Swap was a dumb idea that we should accept anyway, and am not nearly so enamored of efforts to delay Iran through sabotage or assassinations. I wouldn’t object to the use of force to buy a year or two if only someone had a plan for what to do with time purchased at such a dear cost. But if this is going to be like “mowing the grass” — count me out.
I suppose it is possible that the Obama Administration will put this all together at the last moment, averting a military confrontation as all parties recognize their interest in showing some restraint. The Clinton Administration stumbled right up to a war with North Korea in 1994, before hammering out a perfectly serviceable freeze in the form of the Agreed Framework. The prospect of hanging does tend to focus the mind.
But even the Agreed Framework merely bought time that was ultimately squandered by both parties. And, whoever is most to blame for its collapse, An Agreed Framework for Iran is hardly the sort of thing that sounds appealing to most people.
So, permit me the gallows humor. Atoms for Peace, Baby.