Before you panic about Iran’s Manhattan Project, you should know that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) doesn’t think that the Islamic regime’s nuclear activity is dangerous enough to warrant a reprimand. To listen to U.S. intelligence experts tell it, Iran’s leaders aren’t even sure that they want a nuclear weapon. And as far as conventional power goes, Secretary Gates insists that the upheavals in the Middle East are actually a setback for Iran, while Reuters’s headline writers emphasize that “Israeli fears” over Iran’s power play in the Mediterranean were “dismissed.”
Back in reality, yes, of course, the Iranians are going nuclear, and yes, of course, they’re expanding their influence:
Tehran probably does not see the contagion of uprisings in countries like Bahrain, Oman, or Saudi Arabia as something that undermines their position. They have already inoculated themselves against the effects of the Internet and rapid dissemination of dissent. And the higher price for oil may help them economically. The prospect for a nuclear capable Iran amidst a collection of states that are suddenly focused inwardly on internal threats may be a dominant feature of the new reality over the next year or two. …
The IAEA inspectors report that Iran continues to expand its activities and, in particular, its uranium enrichment seems to be continuing with plans for expansion … the output of the declared facilities continues—despite the affects of the Stuxnet cyber attack. The evidence is that despite increased sanctions, the effects of cyber attacks (and reportedly the sabotaging of imported equipment) and the assassinations in Iran of top scientists, the program marches on … it is beginning to look inevitable rather than unacceptable as previous White House statements have declared. [emphasis added]
It’s worth remembering, per that last sentence, that U.S. hegemony is going to suffer beyond just having a hostile nuclear adversary sitting on top of the world’s oil. The Obama administration staked what little credibility America has left on Iranian nuclear weapons being “unacceptable.” That increasingly seems to have been ill-advised.
Now, there are plenty of people who think that Obama isn’t at fault for Iranian nuclearization, because the Iranians were past the point of no return when he took office. That ignores the military options he might have explored and also spares him disapprobation for foregrounding the Israeli-Palestinian issue instead of the Iranian portfolio, but fair enough.
If the apologists are correct, that would have been a very good reason not to go all-in on the “unacceptable” rhetoric. Now Iran’s going to go nuclear, and the U.S. will seem impotent on top of everything else. At least signaling accommodation — which is de facto what this president has embraced, the blustering rhetoric aside — would have seemed less naive. Still impotent and disastrous. But less naive!
Only this administration could operate rhetorically from within the framework of diminished American power, sitting back and watching world events unfold as if it can’t do anything, except during those times when it really can’t do anything. Who made the decision to go in that direction?
It wasn’t actually listening to the kinds of blithe reports intelligence was producing from the beginning, was it? Because our intelligence community is atrocious at evaluating Iranian intentions and capabilities, so that would be worrisome.