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Obama Knew All This on Wednesday

Alongside leaders of Britain and France, the president had this to say today about the revelation of Iran’s second nuclear facility:

Now, Iran’s decision to build yet another nuclear facility without notifying the IAEA represents a direct challenge to the basic compact at the center of the non-proliferation regime. These rules are clear: All nations have the right to peaceful nuclear energy; those nations with nuclear weapons must move towards disarmament; those nations without nuclear weapons must forsake them. That compact has largely held for decades, keeping the world far safer and more secure. And that compact depends on all nations living up to their responsibilities.

This site deepens a growing concern that Iran is refusing to live up to those international responsibilities, including specifically revealing all nuclear-related activities. As the international community knows, this is not the first time that Iran has concealed information about its nuclear program. Iran has a right to peaceful nuclear power that meets the energy needs of its people. But the size and configuration of this facility is inconsistent with a peaceful program. Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow—endangering the global non-proliferation regime, denying its own people access to the opportunity they deserve, and threatening the stability and security of the region and the world.

It is time for Iran to act immediately to restore the confidence of the international community by fulfilling its international obligations. We remain committed to serious, meaningful engagement with Iran to address the nuclear issue through the P5-plus-1 negotiations. Through this dialogue, we are committed to demonstrating that international law is not an empty promise; that obligations must be kept; and that treaties will be enforced.

Compare that to the mealy-mouthed comments at the UN on Wednesday. In discussing his nonproliferation “pillar,” he talked for five paragraphs before getting to Iran (i.e., Iran wasn’t the most important item on the agenda), finally pronouncing:

In their actions to date, the governments of North Korea and Iran threaten to take us down this dangerous slope. We respect their rights as members of the community of nations. I’ve said before and I will repeat, I am committed to diplomacy that opens a path to greater prosperity and more secure peace for both nations if they live up to their obligations.

But if the governments of Iran and North Korea choose to ignore international standards; if they put the pursuit of nuclear weapons ahead of regional stability and the security and opportunity of their own people; if they are oblivious to the dangers of escalating nuclear arms races in both East Asia and the Middle East—then they must be held accountable. The world must stand together to demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise, and that treaties will be enforced. We must insist that the future does not belong to fear.

That’s it. No sense of urgency. No attempt to convey how deceptive Iran was already being. No laying of the groundwork for a stiffer tone. Well, his hand hadn’t yet been forced, and he no doubt thought he’d go merrily along his way, engaging and discussing and trying to put off the day of reckoning. And yet he knew of the heightened danger and the subterfuge underway.

It’s curious in the extreme that, not only did Obama fail to blow the whistle on Iran, he also refrained from using the information he had to rally world opinion. As this report notes: “Obama did not mention the revelation of the facility in any of his talks on nonproliferation during his week at the United Nations.” Whatever the Obama team thought they could do, and however much they apparently desired to procrastinate, that phase of their odd gamesmanship is over. The American public and lawmakers are going to expect Obama to do something now about Iran. Oh, but he did—there is a new two-month deadline in place. Don’t you feel safer already?


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