The New York Times reports:
Iran told the United Nations nuclear watchdog on Thursday that it would not accept a plan its negotiators agreed to last week to send its stockpile of uranium out of the country, according to diplomats in Europe and American officials briefed on Iran’s response. The apparent rejection of the deal could unwind President Obama’s effort to buy time to resolve the nuclear standoff.
Well, that must come as a grave disappointment for the Obami, who were banking on the Iranians’ dragging this out a bit. There’s no sense in being so, well, definitive about it. And sure enough, the U.S. team isn’t ready to take no for an answer:
A senior European official characterized the Iranian response as “basically a refusal.” The Iranians, he said, want to keep all of their lightly enriched uranium in the country until receiving fuel bought from the West for the reactor in Tehran. “The key issue is that Iran does not agree to export its lightly enriched uranium,” the official said. “That’s not a minor detail. That’s the whole point of the deal.” American officials said it was unclear whether Iran’s declaration to Dr. ElBaradei was its final position, or whether it was seeking to renegotiate the deal — a step the Americans said they would not take.
You can hear the Obamai shuffling their feet. They murmur, “Isn’t there a moderate faction we can appeal to?” Maybe this is just a “test” — to see if the U.S. is serious about a deal, the flummoxed American negotiators fret. Yes, it’s a test all right.
It seems the Iranians are uninterested in a deal, even one as patently absurd as this one, in which an unverified portion of uranium (which the Iranians were never supposed to enrich) is shipped out of the country to be enriched for them by Russia or France and returned, thereby possibly delaying, for some minimal amount of time, the regime’s progress in attaining nuclear weapons. Not even this arrangement meets with the regime’s approval. It’s almost as if they think they can keep on doing what they’re doing, doesn’t it?
Could be that the mullahs did not perceive there were consequences to saying no. Might be that Obama’s cowering response to the June 12 elections and the brutalization of the Iranian democratic protesters, the president’s hush-hush-don’t-rock-the-boat-even-if Sarkozy’s-annoyed reaction to the Qom nuclear site, the repeated willingness to overlook deadlines, the ease by which we undercut our Eastern European allies, and the president’s obvious agony in deciding to fully fund a critical war in Afghanistan have together provided a picture of the Obama administration as unserious and irresolute.
The Iranians have no reason to jump at the first offer — Obama may make another, and at the very least he may come back to check if Iran really meant it. The Iranians can draw this out some more. We have not even reached the end of the beginning of the dawdling.