Commentary Magazine


Topic: Mohamed ElBaradei

Egypt’s Return to Military Rule

Governments, understandably, have a history of not tolerating large sit-ins occupying a substantial area in the middle of their capital. But attempts to end such sit-ins have a way of turning out badly. It was not just the Tiananmen Square protest in Beijing in 1989 that ended in a bloodbath. On a lesser level there was Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s heavy-handed dispersal of the Bonus Army, made up of World War I veterans, in Washington in 1932, which forever sullied his image.

Now comes the Egyptian army’s dispersal of the Muslim Brotherhood protesters in Cairo, an attack which has left at least 95 dead (a toll that is certain to grow) and led Mohamed ElBaradei, one of Egypt’s vice presidents, to resign in protest. ElBaradei’s departure from the government, to which he was providing a fig leaf of civil legitimacy, may prove especially significant because it is making the regime in Cairo look increasingly not like a transitional military regime but a permanent military regime.

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Governments, understandably, have a history of not tolerating large sit-ins occupying a substantial area in the middle of their capital. But attempts to end such sit-ins have a way of turning out badly. It was not just the Tiananmen Square protest in Beijing in 1989 that ended in a bloodbath. On a lesser level there was Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s heavy-handed dispersal of the Bonus Army, made up of World War I veterans, in Washington in 1932, which forever sullied his image.

Now comes the Egyptian army’s dispersal of the Muslim Brotherhood protesters in Cairo, an attack which has left at least 95 dead (a toll that is certain to grow) and led Mohamed ElBaradei, one of Egypt’s vice presidents, to resign in protest. ElBaradei’s departure from the government, to which he was providing a fig leaf of civil legitimacy, may prove especially significant because it is making the regime in Cairo look increasingly not like a transitional military regime but a permanent military regime.

This impression is heightened by the fact that 19 out of 25 of the provincial governors just named to office yesterday are generals. Moreover, Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who led the military coup that toppled Mohamed Morsi (now being held at a secret site and likely to be tried on treason charges), has not ruled out running for president himself.

It is looking increasingly as if very little has changed since Hosni Mubarak was toppled–except the name of the general in charge. Egypt appears to be returning to military rule, in ways both good (increased cooperation with Israel in rooting out security threats) and bad (increased repression and the heightened risk of a civil war). If this is the way Egypt’s military goes about restoring “democracy,” I would hate to see how it imposes dictatorship.

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The Slap Heard Round the World

It is amazing that the political revolution now sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa was started by a 26-year-old unemployed Tunisian man who self-immolated.

On December 17, 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi, a university graduate whose fruits-and-vegetables market stand was confiscated by police because it had no permit, tried to yank back his apples. He was slapped in the face by a female municipal inspector and eventually beaten by her colleagues. His later appeals were ignored. Humiliated, he drenched himself in paint thinner and set himself on fire. He died on January 4.

That incident was the spark that set ablaze the revolution that overthrew President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who ruled Tunisia for more than two decades — and that, in turn, spread to Egypt, where Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year reign of power is about to end. Anti-government protests are also happening in Jordan, Morocco, Yemen, and elsewhere. It’s hard to tell where all this will end; but how it began may rank among the more extraordinary hinge moments in history. It may come to be known as the Slap Heard Round the World.

How hopeful or fearful one feels about the unfolding events in Egypt depends in large measure on which revolutionary model one believes applies to this situation. Is it the French, Russian, or Iranian revolution, which ended with the guillotine, gulags, and an Islamic theocracy; or the American Revolution and what happened in the Philippines, South Korea, Indonesia, Chile, and Argentina, authoritarian regimes that made a relatively smooth transition to self-government? Or is it something entirely different? Here it’s worth bearing in mind the counsel of Henry Kissinger, who wrote, “History is not … a cookbook offering pretested recipes. It teaches by analogy, not by maxims. It can illuminate the consequences of actions in comparable situations, yet each generation must discover for itself what situations are in fact comparable.”

Whatever the outcome, it’s clear that the driving force of events in Egypt are tied to the universal human desire for liberty and free elections, for an end to political corruption and oppression. What the 2002 Arab Human Development Report called a “freedom deficit” in the Middle East is at the core of the unrest. Events seem to be vindicating those who said that siding with the forces of “stability” [read: dictatorships] rather than reform was unwise and ultimately unsustainable. At some point the lid would blow. Now it has. Read More

It is amazing that the political revolution now sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa was started by a 26-year-old unemployed Tunisian man who self-immolated.

On December 17, 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi, a university graduate whose fruits-and-vegetables market stand was confiscated by police because it had no permit, tried to yank back his apples. He was slapped in the face by a female municipal inspector and eventually beaten by her colleagues. His later appeals were ignored. Humiliated, he drenched himself in paint thinner and set himself on fire. He died on January 4.

That incident was the spark that set ablaze the revolution that overthrew President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who ruled Tunisia for more than two decades — and that, in turn, spread to Egypt, where Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year reign of power is about to end. Anti-government protests are also happening in Jordan, Morocco, Yemen, and elsewhere. It’s hard to tell where all this will end; but how it began may rank among the more extraordinary hinge moments in history. It may come to be known as the Slap Heard Round the World.

How hopeful or fearful one feels about the unfolding events in Egypt depends in large measure on which revolutionary model one believes applies to this situation. Is it the French, Russian, or Iranian revolution, which ended with the guillotine, gulags, and an Islamic theocracy; or the American Revolution and what happened in the Philippines, South Korea, Indonesia, Chile, and Argentina, authoritarian regimes that made a relatively smooth transition to self-government? Or is it something entirely different? Here it’s worth bearing in mind the counsel of Henry Kissinger, who wrote, “History is not … a cookbook offering pretested recipes. It teaches by analogy, not by maxims. It can illuminate the consequences of actions in comparable situations, yet each generation must discover for itself what situations are in fact comparable.”

Whatever the outcome, it’s clear that the driving force of events in Egypt are tied to the universal human desire for liberty and free elections, for an end to political corruption and oppression. What the 2002 Arab Human Development Report called a “freedom deficit” in the Middle East is at the core of the unrest. Events seem to be vindicating those who said that siding with the forces of “stability” [read: dictatorships] rather than reform was unwise and ultimately unsustainable. At some point the lid would blow. Now it has.

The danger is that groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, which is hostile to Israel and close to Hamas, hijacks the revolution. The goal of U.S policy must therefore be to influence this revolution, to the degree we can, in a way that advances U.S. interests and American ideals. This means taking an active role, both publicly and behind the scenes, in support of those who stand for liberal democracy (for more, see here).

The hour has grown quite late. As Max Boot points out, the equivocation of the Obama administration needs to end. Mohamed ElBaradei, a leading Egyptian dissident who appears to be rapidly gaining power, is right when he said the United States is “losing credibility by the day” by its support for the Egyptian dictator. Mr. Mubarak is, politically speaking, a Dead Man Walking. There is still time, but not much time, for the president to get on the right side of this revolution and the right side of history. Secretary of State Clinton’s comments yesterday, in which she called for an “orderly transition” to a representative government, were certainly an improvement from where the administration was last week, when she was assuring the world of the staying power of Mr. Mubarak and Vice President Biden was declaring, against three decades of evidence, that the Egyptian president was not a dictator.

Having worked in three administrations and in the White House during a series of crises, I have some sympathy for how difficult it is to navigate through roiling waters, when one has to act on incomplete information in the midst of chaotic and constantly changing events, the outcome of which is impossible to know. In that respect, the Obama administration deserves some empathy. It’s never as easy to guide events when you’re in government as it is to critique events when you’re outside of government.

Still, as my former colleague William Inboden has written, it seems to me that the Obama administration can be held responsible for two important errors: (a) its failure to anticipate what is happening in Egypt and prepare contingency plans. and (b) its neglect of human rights, democracy, and economic reform in Egypt for the previous two years. “These failures should be front and center in any post-mortem policy review,” Professor Inboden writes. “The Mubarak regime’s brittleness and Egypt’s stagnation have long been apparent to many observers.” But not, apparently, to the Obama administration, which seems to have been caught completely off guard. If the spark that set the region afire was impossible to anticipate, the dry tinder of the region was not.

One Arab nation that so far hasn’t been convulsed by the political revolution now sweeping the Middle East is Iraq — the one Arab nation whose government is legitimate, the produce of free elections and political compromise, and that has the consent of the people. When it came to Iraqi democracy, most of the foreign-policy establishment assured us that self-government there could never take root, that Iraq would simply be a pawn of Iran, that the ethnic divisions in Iraq were too deep to overcome, and that (as Joe Biden argued at the time) the only solution was partition. At this stage, it’s reasonable to conclude that these judgments were quite wrong. And while one can certainly debate whether the Iraq war was worth the blood, treasure, and opportunities it cost, it appears as if the Egyptian people, and not only the Egyptian people, are longing for what the people of Iraq have embraced: self-government. It isn’t perfect by any means — but for the Arab Middle East, it is a model for other nations to aspire.

(h/t: Victor Davis Hanson)

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Finally, an IAEA Report That Pulls No Punches

The IAEA’s latest report was leaked yesterday and is available here. It makes, as usual, some pretty technical reading, but it has some important insights to offer that deserve notice.

First, the tone of the report is less circumspect about slapping Iran around for its noncompliance. The report explicitly and unambiguously states and explains why Iran is in noncompliance of many of its obligations — something obvious perhaps to readers of this blog but that was lacking from previous reports. The report makes it clear that Iran is continuing to defy the international community.

Second, the report highlights a number of troubling developments. Iran has succeeded in increasing enrichment levels to 19.8 percent. It has transferred most of its stockpile of Low Enriched Uranium to the feed station of the fuel-enrichment plant in Natanz, where it intends to enrich uranium for its Tehran Research Reactor as fuel to produce medical isotopes. As David Albright, Jacqueline Shire, and Paul Brannan note in their report analysis, “Iran may plan eventually to convert most of its accumulated stock of LEU hexafluoride to 20 percent LEU, a quantity far in excess of the TRR’s needs (this quantity of LEU hexafluoride would yield just under 200 kg of 19.75 percent LEU).”

Given that Iran does not need to convert all its stockpile immediately, one must question the motives for such a move — especially since, in parallel, Iran is preparing the Esfahan site to start producing uranium metal, and the fuel-enrichment plant in Natanz has seen a considerable number of centrifuges sitting idly by, with some more being dismantled. And since Iran’s Fordow site (designed to host 3,000 centrifuges) may well suit a military program but ill suits a civil one, and since uranium metal is needed for weapons production and 200 kilograms of 19.75 percent LEU far exceed Iran’s medical needs, one must suspect the combining of these activities.

The IAEA has just given a sterling performance. And why is this report so much blunter than anything seen previously?

Mohamed ElBaradei is no longer the director general.

The IAEA’s latest report was leaked yesterday and is available here. It makes, as usual, some pretty technical reading, but it has some important insights to offer that deserve notice.

First, the tone of the report is less circumspect about slapping Iran around for its noncompliance. The report explicitly and unambiguously states and explains why Iran is in noncompliance of many of its obligations — something obvious perhaps to readers of this blog but that was lacking from previous reports. The report makes it clear that Iran is continuing to defy the international community.

Second, the report highlights a number of troubling developments. Iran has succeeded in increasing enrichment levels to 19.8 percent. It has transferred most of its stockpile of Low Enriched Uranium to the feed station of the fuel-enrichment plant in Natanz, where it intends to enrich uranium for its Tehran Research Reactor as fuel to produce medical isotopes. As David Albright, Jacqueline Shire, and Paul Brannan note in their report analysis, “Iran may plan eventually to convert most of its accumulated stock of LEU hexafluoride to 20 percent LEU, a quantity far in excess of the TRR’s needs (this quantity of LEU hexafluoride would yield just under 200 kg of 19.75 percent LEU).”

Given that Iran does not need to convert all its stockpile immediately, one must question the motives for such a move — especially since, in parallel, Iran is preparing the Esfahan site to start producing uranium metal, and the fuel-enrichment plant in Natanz has seen a considerable number of centrifuges sitting idly by, with some more being dismantled. And since Iran’s Fordow site (designed to host 3,000 centrifuges) may well suit a military program but ill suits a civil one, and since uranium metal is needed for weapons production and 200 kilograms of 19.75 percent LEU far exceed Iran’s medical needs, one must suspect the combining of these activities.

The IAEA has just given a sterling performance. And why is this report so much blunter than anything seen previously?

Mohamed ElBaradei is no longer the director general.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

What’s the matter with Harry? “Republicans attacked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday after Reid compared opponents of healthcare reform to those who opposed the abolition of slavery. … Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said the comments were an indication that Reid was ‘cracking’ under the pressure of enacting healthcare reform. ‘Folks tend to crack under pressure,’ Chambliss said at a press conference with Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas). ‘It is an indication of desperation.'”

The Washington Post’s Stephen Stromberg tells us that the “real” scandal of Copenhagen is that rich countries aren’t crippling their economies fast enough: “The commitments on the table from developed countries and large developing nations are probably inadequate to prevent the sort of warming scientists estimate is unacceptably risky.” Uh, I think the “sort of warming scientists estimate” is, however, the nub of the scandal.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors get it: “At a minimum, the emails demonstrate the lengths some of the world’s leading climate scientists were prepared to go to manufacture the “consensus” they used to demand drastic steps against global warming. The emails are replete with talk of blacklisting dissenting scientists and journals, manipulating peer review and avoiding freedom of information requests. … The core question raised by the emails is why their authors would behave this way if they are as privately convinced of the strength of their case as they claim in public.”

George Will on the false promise of an enrichment deal with the mullahs: “To the surprise of no one who did not doze through the last decade, Iran immediately backed away from its faux commitment. Then in November, Mohamed ElBaradei, the pathologically optimistic head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, at last admitted that his attempts to pierce the veil of Iran’s nuclear program had ‘reached a dead end.’ One day later, the IAEA ‘censured’ Iran for failing to play nicely with others. Two days after that, Iran announced plans for 10 more uranium enrichment plants. The Obama administration admonishes Iran that the clock is ticking. Clocks do indeed do that, but Iran seems unimpressed.”

We learn once again: “Sixty votes is a very high bar.” Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are likely “no” votes on Sen. Ben Nelson’s Stupak-like anti-abortion-funding amendment. So does Nelson then filibuster the final bill? Well, only if he does what he promised.

Bill McGurn: “Today Mr. Obama is going to give us more details about the wonderful things all those smart people in Washington are going to do to help us on the economy. Maybe he would do well to take another look at all those bright lights around him. For the more he proposes government will do, the more skeptical Americans seem to be.”

Rich Lowry on the problems with Obama’s West Point speech: “He failed to do two things that Petraeus did when advocating the surge: 1) explaining in some detail how hard it’s going to be, and how the news is likelier to be worse before it gets better (Will has a point here — the deadline does serve to create unrealistic expectations); 2) explaining in some detail why it can succeed.”

The latest from Iran: “Thousands of people rallied against the government on Monday at universities across Iran, defying a wide-ranging effort to suppress the protests and bringing a new ferocity to the opposition movement’s confrontation with the state.” Well, the president says “we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples.” So why isn’t he speaking out?

What’s the matter with Harry? “Republicans attacked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday after Reid compared opponents of healthcare reform to those who opposed the abolition of slavery. … Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said the comments were an indication that Reid was ‘cracking’ under the pressure of enacting healthcare reform. ‘Folks tend to crack under pressure,’ Chambliss said at a press conference with Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas). ‘It is an indication of desperation.'”

The Washington Post’s Stephen Stromberg tells us that the “real” scandal of Copenhagen is that rich countries aren’t crippling their economies fast enough: “The commitments on the table from developed countries and large developing nations are probably inadequate to prevent the sort of warming scientists estimate is unacceptably risky.” Uh, I think the “sort of warming scientists estimate” is, however, the nub of the scandal.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors get it: “At a minimum, the emails demonstrate the lengths some of the world’s leading climate scientists were prepared to go to manufacture the “consensus” they used to demand drastic steps against global warming. The emails are replete with talk of blacklisting dissenting scientists and journals, manipulating peer review and avoiding freedom of information requests. … The core question raised by the emails is why their authors would behave this way if they are as privately convinced of the strength of their case as they claim in public.”

George Will on the false promise of an enrichment deal with the mullahs: “To the surprise of no one who did not doze through the last decade, Iran immediately backed away from its faux commitment. Then in November, Mohamed ElBaradei, the pathologically optimistic head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, at last admitted that his attempts to pierce the veil of Iran’s nuclear program had ‘reached a dead end.’ One day later, the IAEA ‘censured’ Iran for failing to play nicely with others. Two days after that, Iran announced plans for 10 more uranium enrichment plants. The Obama administration admonishes Iran that the clock is ticking. Clocks do indeed do that, but Iran seems unimpressed.”

We learn once again: “Sixty votes is a very high bar.” Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are likely “no” votes on Sen. Ben Nelson’s Stupak-like anti-abortion-funding amendment. So does Nelson then filibuster the final bill? Well, only if he does what he promised.

Bill McGurn: “Today Mr. Obama is going to give us more details about the wonderful things all those smart people in Washington are going to do to help us on the economy. Maybe he would do well to take another look at all those bright lights around him. For the more he proposes government will do, the more skeptical Americans seem to be.”

Rich Lowry on the problems with Obama’s West Point speech: “He failed to do two things that Petraeus did when advocating the surge: 1) explaining in some detail how hard it’s going to be, and how the news is likelier to be worse before it gets better (Will has a point here — the deadline does serve to create unrealistic expectations); 2) explaining in some detail why it can succeed.”

The latest from Iran: “Thousands of people rallied against the government on Monday at universities across Iran, defying a wide-ranging effort to suppress the protests and bringing a new ferocity to the opposition movement’s confrontation with the state.” Well, the president says “we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples.” So why isn’t he speaking out?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Well, after having a “total freeze” dangled before their eyes, of course the PA is not satisfied, hollering about Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s “political maneuvering” and “deception” is announcing a halt to new West Bank settlements for 10 months (but no restrictions on ongoing projects or housing within Jerusalem). “The PA is also furious with the US administration for hailing the decision as a step forward toward resuming the peace process in the Middle East.” Well, that’s what comes from the Obami’s incompetent gambit. How is it that George Mitchell still has a job?

Copenhagen round two: “Obama has come home from Copenhagen empty-handed once before — when he flew in to lobby for Chicago’s pitch for the 2016 Olympics, only to watch the International Olympic Committee reject his hometown’s bid in the first round of its voting.”

A very unpopular decision: “By 59% to 36%, more Americans believe accused Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed should be tried in a military court, rather than in a civilian criminal court.” Among independents, 63 percent favor a military tribunal.

Karl Rove reminds us that “since taking office Mr. Obama pushed through a $787 billion stimulus, a $33 billion expansion of the child health program known as S-chip, a $410 billion omnibus appropriations spending bill, and an $80 billion car company bailout. He also pushed a $821 billion cap-and-trade bill through the House and is now urging Congress to pass a nearly $1 trillion health-care bill.” But no worries — Obama would like a commission to address our fiscal mess.

Charles Krauthammer writes on ObamaCare: “The bill is irredeemable. It should not only be defeated. It should be immolated, its ashes scattered over the Senate swimming pool. … The better choice is targeted measures that attack the inefficiencies of the current system one by one — tort reform, interstate purchasing and taxing employee benefits. It would take 20 pages to write such a bill, not 2,000 — and provide the funds to cover the uninsured without wrecking both U.S. health care and the U.S. Treasury.” And it might even be politically popular.

Iran has managed to do the impossible: draw the ire of the IAEA and make Mohamed ElBaradei sound realistically pessimistic: “We have effectively reached a dead end, unless Iran engages fully with us.” The White House pipes up with a perfectly meaningless comment: “If Iran refuses to meet its obligations, then it will be responsible for its own growing isolation and the consequences.” Which are what exactly?

Marc Ambinder spins it as “circumspect”: “The upshot from the administration: now is the time to get serious. The world is united in favor of tougher, non-diplomatic means to pressure Iran. But no word on when or how — just yet.” But let’s get real — it’s more of the same irresoluteness and stalling we’ve heard all year from the Obami.

If you might lose something, you begin to appreciate what you have: “Forty-nine percent (49%) of voters nationwide now rate the U.S. health care system as good or excellent. That marks a steady increase from 44% at the beginning of October, 35% in May and 29% a year-and-a-half ago. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 27% now say the U.S. health care system is poor. It is interesting to note that confidence in the system has improved as the debate over health care reform has moved to center stage.”

Kim Strassel thinks the Copenhagen confab will be a bust in the wake of the scandal about the Climate Research Unit’s e-mails: “Instead of producing legally binding agreements, it will be dogged by queries about the legitimacy of the scientists who wrote the reports that form its basis.” And meanwhile “Republicans are launching investigations, and the pressure is building on Democrats to hold hearings, since climate scientists were funded with U.S. taxpayer dollars.”

Well, after having a “total freeze” dangled before their eyes, of course the PA is not satisfied, hollering about Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s “political maneuvering” and “deception” is announcing a halt to new West Bank settlements for 10 months (but no restrictions on ongoing projects or housing within Jerusalem). “The PA is also furious with the US administration for hailing the decision as a step forward toward resuming the peace process in the Middle East.” Well, that’s what comes from the Obami’s incompetent gambit. How is it that George Mitchell still has a job?

Copenhagen round two: “Obama has come home from Copenhagen empty-handed once before — when he flew in to lobby for Chicago’s pitch for the 2016 Olympics, only to watch the International Olympic Committee reject his hometown’s bid in the first round of its voting.”

A very unpopular decision: “By 59% to 36%, more Americans believe accused Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed should be tried in a military court, rather than in a civilian criminal court.” Among independents, 63 percent favor a military tribunal.

Karl Rove reminds us that “since taking office Mr. Obama pushed through a $787 billion stimulus, a $33 billion expansion of the child health program known as S-chip, a $410 billion omnibus appropriations spending bill, and an $80 billion car company bailout. He also pushed a $821 billion cap-and-trade bill through the House and is now urging Congress to pass a nearly $1 trillion health-care bill.” But no worries — Obama would like a commission to address our fiscal mess.

Charles Krauthammer writes on ObamaCare: “The bill is irredeemable. It should not only be defeated. It should be immolated, its ashes scattered over the Senate swimming pool. … The better choice is targeted measures that attack the inefficiencies of the current system one by one — tort reform, interstate purchasing and taxing employee benefits. It would take 20 pages to write such a bill, not 2,000 — and provide the funds to cover the uninsured without wrecking both U.S. health care and the U.S. Treasury.” And it might even be politically popular.

Iran has managed to do the impossible: draw the ire of the IAEA and make Mohamed ElBaradei sound realistically pessimistic: “We have effectively reached a dead end, unless Iran engages fully with us.” The White House pipes up with a perfectly meaningless comment: “If Iran refuses to meet its obligations, then it will be responsible for its own growing isolation and the consequences.” Which are what exactly?

Marc Ambinder spins it as “circumspect”: “The upshot from the administration: now is the time to get serious. The world is united in favor of tougher, non-diplomatic means to pressure Iran. But no word on when or how — just yet.” But let’s get real — it’s more of the same irresoluteness and stalling we’ve heard all year from the Obami.

If you might lose something, you begin to appreciate what you have: “Forty-nine percent (49%) of voters nationwide now rate the U.S. health care system as good or excellent. That marks a steady increase from 44% at the beginning of October, 35% in May and 29% a year-and-a-half ago. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 27% now say the U.S. health care system is poor. It is interesting to note that confidence in the system has improved as the debate over health care reform has moved to center stage.”

Kim Strassel thinks the Copenhagen confab will be a bust in the wake of the scandal about the Climate Research Unit’s e-mails: “Instead of producing legally binding agreements, it will be dogged by queries about the legitimacy of the scientists who wrote the reports that form its basis.” And meanwhile “Republicans are launching investigations, and the pressure is building on Democrats to hold hearings, since climate scientists were funded with U.S. taxpayer dollars.”

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Beyond Farce

Thank goodness we have a president who is willing to “listen” to foreign governments, to “create space” for conflict resolution, to break America’s habit of “dictating” to those with whom it disagrees, to invite international institutions to “share” in the process of mitigating the world’s dangers. Without persistent Dr. Phil-diplomacy, we never could have achieved this:

United Nations and Iranian officials have been secretly negotiating a deal to persuade world powers to lift sanctions and allow Tehran to retain the bulk of its nuclear programme in return for co-operation with UN inspectors.

According to a draft document seen by The Times, the 13-point agreement was drawn up in September by Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in an effort to break the stalemate over Iran’s nuclear programme before he stands down at the end of this month.

Forget the cooperation of Russia; forget the cooperation of Iran. The most benign and internationally beloved president in modern history can’t keep the intermediary bodies from secretly plotting against us. It’s useful to keep today’s revelation in mind when people go on about how George W. Bush spurned international bodies or about how the U.S. can’t be the world’s police. Perhaps Obama will get tough on the IAEA and register one of his bone-chilling warnings about his patience not being endless.

There are a slew of synonyms for the kind of popularity Obama has conferred upon America: adoration, affection, favor, and so on. But there is no usable replacement for respect. Respect comes when you draw a line. For this administration, there is no line. The uncooperativeness (forget evil) of bad actors never gets fully recognized. Because there is no line, the administration’s claims of progress are unfalsifiable. That is, they can never be disproved. Everything is endlessly encouraging.

Hey, you can’t blame ElBaradei for wanting to secure his legacy. You know what they say: You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too many Nobel Peace Prizes.

Thank goodness we have a president who is willing to “listen” to foreign governments, to “create space” for conflict resolution, to break America’s habit of “dictating” to those with whom it disagrees, to invite international institutions to “share” in the process of mitigating the world’s dangers. Without persistent Dr. Phil-diplomacy, we never could have achieved this:

United Nations and Iranian officials have been secretly negotiating a deal to persuade world powers to lift sanctions and allow Tehran to retain the bulk of its nuclear programme in return for co-operation with UN inspectors.

According to a draft document seen by The Times, the 13-point agreement was drawn up in September by Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in an effort to break the stalemate over Iran’s nuclear programme before he stands down at the end of this month.

Forget the cooperation of Russia; forget the cooperation of Iran. The most benign and internationally beloved president in modern history can’t keep the intermediary bodies from secretly plotting against us. It’s useful to keep today’s revelation in mind when people go on about how George W. Bush spurned international bodies or about how the U.S. can’t be the world’s police. Perhaps Obama will get tough on the IAEA and register one of his bone-chilling warnings about his patience not being endless.

There are a slew of synonyms for the kind of popularity Obama has conferred upon America: adoration, affection, favor, and so on. But there is no usable replacement for respect. Respect comes when you draw a line. For this administration, there is no line. The uncooperativeness (forget evil) of bad actors never gets fully recognized. Because there is no line, the administration’s claims of progress are unfalsifiable. That is, they can never be disproved. Everything is endlessly encouraging.

Hey, you can’t blame ElBaradei for wanting to secure his legacy. You know what they say: You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too many Nobel Peace Prizes.

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How the IAEA Encourages Proliferation

The International Atomic Energy Agency is, as Jonathan noted, deeply disturbed by its latest findings on Iran. It is also deeply disturbed by its latest findings on Syria, which it detailed in another report released this week. Syria’s explanation of the uranium traces found at a Damascus research reactor did not fit the facts, the report said, nor did these traces match Syria’s declared uranium inventory. Moreover, Syria is still refusing IAEA requests for both a return visit to Dair Alzour, the site Israel bombed in September 2007, and initial visits to three military sites whose appearance was altered after inspectors asked to see them.

“Essentially, no progress has been made since the last report to clarify any of the outstanding issues,” the agency concluded.

The real mystery, however, is why the IAEA seems to find this behavior eternally surprising — because its own behavior positively demands such stonewalling.

The IAEA has been investigating Syria for more than two years now. During this time, it has issued numerous reports expressing its concern over suspicious findings that Damascus failed to adequately explain and over Syria’s refusal to let it make the inspections necessary to answer its questions. Yet it has refused to refer the case to the Security Council for sanctions, because, says agency director Mohamed ElBaradei, there is no proof of Syrian wrongdoing.

Well, of course there isn’t. That’s the whole point of Syria’s stonewalling — to prevent the agency from getting such proof!

Damascus, needless to say, is merely copying the lessons learned from the agency’s handling of Iran. After discovering in 2003 that Tehran had been lying about its nuclear program for 18 years, the agency spent the next three years refusing to turn the file over to the Security Council, saying there was no proof Iran’s secret nuclear program was aimed at producing weapons. And when the case finally did reach the Security Council, ElBaradei lobbied vehemently against sanctions, citing the lack of a “smoking gun” that would justify punishment.

Thus all Iran had to do was ensure that there never would be a smoking gun — by steadfastly refusing to comply with inspectors’ requests.

ElBaradei thereby made noncooperation the optimum strategy. Had either Syria or Iran cooperated, the agency might have obtained sufficient evidence to justify severe sanctions. But as long as they refuse to cooperate, the agency has little chance of obtaining such proof, ensuring that any repercussions will be mild. Therefore, they are free to develop nuclear weapons with impunity.

To be effective, IAEA policy would have to be the exact opposite — one of imposing stringent penalties for noncooperation, to encourage suspect countries to “come clean” and prove their innocence. And that, of course, would require suspect regimes to actually be innocent, creating a strong disincentive to secret weapons programs.

In short, under ElBaradei, the IAEA has brilliantly hit on the strategy most likely to facilitate nuclear proliferation. Is it any wonder he and the agency won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005?

The International Atomic Energy Agency is, as Jonathan noted, deeply disturbed by its latest findings on Iran. It is also deeply disturbed by its latest findings on Syria, which it detailed in another report released this week. Syria’s explanation of the uranium traces found at a Damascus research reactor did not fit the facts, the report said, nor did these traces match Syria’s declared uranium inventory. Moreover, Syria is still refusing IAEA requests for both a return visit to Dair Alzour, the site Israel bombed in September 2007, and initial visits to three military sites whose appearance was altered after inspectors asked to see them.

“Essentially, no progress has been made since the last report to clarify any of the outstanding issues,” the agency concluded.

The real mystery, however, is why the IAEA seems to find this behavior eternally surprising — because its own behavior positively demands such stonewalling.

The IAEA has been investigating Syria for more than two years now. During this time, it has issued numerous reports expressing its concern over suspicious findings that Damascus failed to adequately explain and over Syria’s refusal to let it make the inspections necessary to answer its questions. Yet it has refused to refer the case to the Security Council for sanctions, because, says agency director Mohamed ElBaradei, there is no proof of Syrian wrongdoing.

Well, of course there isn’t. That’s the whole point of Syria’s stonewalling — to prevent the agency from getting such proof!

Damascus, needless to say, is merely copying the lessons learned from the agency’s handling of Iran. After discovering in 2003 that Tehran had been lying about its nuclear program for 18 years, the agency spent the next three years refusing to turn the file over to the Security Council, saying there was no proof Iran’s secret nuclear program was aimed at producing weapons. And when the case finally did reach the Security Council, ElBaradei lobbied vehemently against sanctions, citing the lack of a “smoking gun” that would justify punishment.

Thus all Iran had to do was ensure that there never would be a smoking gun — by steadfastly refusing to comply with inspectors’ requests.

ElBaradei thereby made noncooperation the optimum strategy. Had either Syria or Iran cooperated, the agency might have obtained sufficient evidence to justify severe sanctions. But as long as they refuse to cooperate, the agency has little chance of obtaining such proof, ensuring that any repercussions will be mild. Therefore, they are free to develop nuclear weapons with impunity.

To be effective, IAEA policy would have to be the exact opposite — one of imposing stringent penalties for noncooperation, to encourage suspect countries to “come clean” and prove their innocence. And that, of course, would require suspect regimes to actually be innocent, creating a strong disincentive to secret weapons programs.

In short, under ElBaradei, the IAEA has brilliantly hit on the strategy most likely to facilitate nuclear proliferation. Is it any wonder he and the agency won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005?

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Fool Me Once…

On September 6, 2007, Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor at al Kibar. Writing about the raid in the New Yorker on February 11, 2008, Seymour Hersh cast doubt on the contention that it was in fact a nuclear facility:

in three months of reporting for this article, I was repeatedly told by current and former intelligence, diplomatic, and congressional officials that they were not aware of any solid evidence of ongoing nuclear-weapons programs in Syria. It is possible that Israel conveyed intelligence directly to senior members of the Bush Administration, without it being vetted by intelligence agencies. (This process, known as “stovepiping,” overwhelmed U.S. intelligence before the war in Iraq.) But Mohamed ElBaradei, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations group responsible for monitoring compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, said, “Our experts who have carefully analyzed the satellite imagery say it is unlikely that this building was a nuclear facility.”

One of Hersh’s sources was Barack Obama’s non-proliferation adviser, Joseph Cirincione, who told Hersh flatly that

Syria does not have the technical, industrial, or financial ability to support a nuclear-weapons program. I’ve been following this issue for fifteen years, and every once in a while a suspicion arises and we investigate and there’s nothing.

In the face of unequivocal evidence, Cirincione has acknowledged his error, saying “no one bats 1000.” That of course is true. And the difficulty of assessing what Syria was up to was certainly compounded by Syrian deception. David Albright’s outfit, the Institute for Science and International Security, has put out an important study (complete with photographs) of the “extraordinary camouflage” methods the Syrians employed to disguise the facility.

In assessing the track record of an expert like Cirincione, let’s also keep in mind that tight secrecy, camouflage, and deception in nuclear affairs are nothing new. On the eve of the first Gulf war, thanks to secrecy, the United States was almost completely in the dark about the far-reaching scope of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program.

In the run-up to the second Gulf war, the problem was reversed. The intelligence community persuaded itself that Saddam had an active nuclear program when in fact he had none.

One would expect experts to draw appropriate lessons from both experiences. First among them is that humility and a measure of self-doubt are important when trying to penetrate other countries’ secrets.

Such qualities were conspicuously absent in Cirincione’s analysis of al Kibar: “There was and is no nuclear-weapons threat from Syria. This is all political,” is what he categorically told Hersh.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

On September 6, 2007, Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor at al Kibar. Writing about the raid in the New Yorker on February 11, 2008, Seymour Hersh cast doubt on the contention that it was in fact a nuclear facility:

in three months of reporting for this article, I was repeatedly told by current and former intelligence, diplomatic, and congressional officials that they were not aware of any solid evidence of ongoing nuclear-weapons programs in Syria. It is possible that Israel conveyed intelligence directly to senior members of the Bush Administration, without it being vetted by intelligence agencies. (This process, known as “stovepiping,” overwhelmed U.S. intelligence before the war in Iraq.) But Mohamed ElBaradei, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations group responsible for monitoring compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, said, “Our experts who have carefully analyzed the satellite imagery say it is unlikely that this building was a nuclear facility.”

One of Hersh’s sources was Barack Obama’s non-proliferation adviser, Joseph Cirincione, who told Hersh flatly that

Syria does not have the technical, industrial, or financial ability to support a nuclear-weapons program. I’ve been following this issue for fifteen years, and every once in a while a suspicion arises and we investigate and there’s nothing.

In the face of unequivocal evidence, Cirincione has acknowledged his error, saying “no one bats 1000.” That of course is true. And the difficulty of assessing what Syria was up to was certainly compounded by Syrian deception. David Albright’s outfit, the Institute for Science and International Security, has put out an important study (complete with photographs) of the “extraordinary camouflage” methods the Syrians employed to disguise the facility.

In assessing the track record of an expert like Cirincione, let’s also keep in mind that tight secrecy, camouflage, and deception in nuclear affairs are nothing new. On the eve of the first Gulf war, thanks to secrecy, the United States was almost completely in the dark about the far-reaching scope of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program.

In the run-up to the second Gulf war, the problem was reversed. The intelligence community persuaded itself that Saddam had an active nuclear program when in fact he had none.

One would expect experts to draw appropriate lessons from both experiences. First among them is that humility and a measure of self-doubt are important when trying to penetrate other countries’ secrets.

Such qualities were conspicuously absent in Cirincione’s analysis of al Kibar: “There was and is no nuclear-weapons threat from Syria. This is all political,” is what he categorically told Hersh.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

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A “Milestone” Agreement with Iran

A few hours ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced a “milestone” agreement with Iran. According to IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming, the U.N. nuclear watchdog and Tehran will cooperate “on a process that aims to clarify the so-called alleged studies during the month of May.” The “alleged studies” are materials supplied by the United States and other Western nations showing that Iran had at one time conducted nuclear bomb research.

Iranian officials and the IAEA’s chief investigator, Olli Heinonen, negotiated the agreement during talks on Monday and Tuesday in the Iranian capital. Previously, Mohamed ElBaradei, the organization’s chief, had said that the world “needs to make sure Iran did not have a weapons program.”

For Tehran, the agreement with the IAEA is obviously another delaying tactic. Yet the deal also creates a deadline. If the Iranians cannot refute the alleged studies by next month and cannot admit that they had tried to weaponize the atom, then the international community faces another one of those moments of truth.

Deadlines do not enforce themselves. Great powers do that. By the end of next month we will know whether the United States is still a great power. Iran is not just about the Middle East, and it is not just about Syria and all the other nations that want the bomb. Iran is now about us.

A few hours ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced a “milestone” agreement with Iran. According to IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming, the U.N. nuclear watchdog and Tehran will cooperate “on a process that aims to clarify the so-called alleged studies during the month of May.” The “alleged studies” are materials supplied by the United States and other Western nations showing that Iran had at one time conducted nuclear bomb research.

Iranian officials and the IAEA’s chief investigator, Olli Heinonen, negotiated the agreement during talks on Monday and Tuesday in the Iranian capital. Previously, Mohamed ElBaradei, the organization’s chief, had said that the world “needs to make sure Iran did not have a weapons program.”

For Tehran, the agreement with the IAEA is obviously another delaying tactic. Yet the deal also creates a deadline. If the Iranians cannot refute the alleged studies by next month and cannot admit that they had tried to weaponize the atom, then the international community faces another one of those moments of truth.

Deadlines do not enforce themselves. Great powers do that. By the end of next month we will know whether the United States is still a great power. Iran is not just about the Middle East, and it is not just about Syria and all the other nations that want the bomb. Iran is now about us.

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The Ultimate Test of American Leadership

Today, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said his country would announce a new diplomatic initiative soon. “The Islamic Republic of Iran is trying to come up with a proposed package in an effort to resolve regional and international problems in dialogue with opposing parties,” he stated. Mottaki implied that the “new orientation” would relate to Tehran’s nuclear program. The foreign minister’s words followed Saturday’s announcement that Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, will meet with the IAEA’s Mohamed ElBaradei tomorrow in Vienna.

The two announcements come within days of Wednesday’s gathering in Shanghai of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, the P5 + 1. The group is expected to discuss sweetening incentives for Iran to drop its enrichment of uranium.

Are there any coincidences when it comes to the Iranian nuclear program? Yes, but this series of events is not one of them. Tehran knows it can buy itself at least another year by holding out hope at this time that there can be a peaceful resolution to the impasse. Therefore, the announcements of yesterday and today are, like all of its past offers, insincere.

This is not to say that Iranians cannot be talked out of their enrichment program. They can—but only when they know they have been defeated. At this moment, however, the mullahs appear to believe they are the ones who are prevailing. So, contrary to what the New York Times has just suggested, it is pointless to begin a new round of negotiations. On Friday, the paper stated that “Washington needs to make Iran a serious offer to talk about everything, including security assurances and diplomatic and economic relations if it is willing to give up its fuel program and cooperate fully with inspectors.”

What Washington really needs to do is make sure that Iran’s new diplomatic offensive does not succeed and that the P5+1 pushes through a tougher round of sanctions soon. President Bush has staked so much on cooperation with Beijing and Moscow in the past few years. Yet if the Chinese and Russians cannot cooperate on such a basic matter as Iran’s nuclear program when it is on the verge of creating a weapon, then it is pointless to maintain dialogue with them because nothing much else will matter.

It is, of course, unlikely that these two nations will reverse course at this time. So we are at one of those moments when conventional diplomacy is failing. When that happens—when what is necessary is no longer considered practical—the world often experiences uncertainty, turbulence, and death in great numbers.

If the Bush administration cannot change the course of events one more time, then we could travel from the best moment in history to the worst. This is, up to now, the ultimate test of American leadership.

Today, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said his country would announce a new diplomatic initiative soon. “The Islamic Republic of Iran is trying to come up with a proposed package in an effort to resolve regional and international problems in dialogue with opposing parties,” he stated. Mottaki implied that the “new orientation” would relate to Tehran’s nuclear program. The foreign minister’s words followed Saturday’s announcement that Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, will meet with the IAEA’s Mohamed ElBaradei tomorrow in Vienna.

The two announcements come within days of Wednesday’s gathering in Shanghai of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, the P5 + 1. The group is expected to discuss sweetening incentives for Iran to drop its enrichment of uranium.

Are there any coincidences when it comes to the Iranian nuclear program? Yes, but this series of events is not one of them. Tehran knows it can buy itself at least another year by holding out hope at this time that there can be a peaceful resolution to the impasse. Therefore, the announcements of yesterday and today are, like all of its past offers, insincere.

This is not to say that Iranians cannot be talked out of their enrichment program. They can—but only when they know they have been defeated. At this moment, however, the mullahs appear to believe they are the ones who are prevailing. So, contrary to what the New York Times has just suggested, it is pointless to begin a new round of negotiations. On Friday, the paper stated that “Washington needs to make Iran a serious offer to talk about everything, including security assurances and diplomatic and economic relations if it is willing to give up its fuel program and cooperate fully with inspectors.”

What Washington really needs to do is make sure that Iran’s new diplomatic offensive does not succeed and that the P5+1 pushes through a tougher round of sanctions soon. President Bush has staked so much on cooperation with Beijing and Moscow in the past few years. Yet if the Chinese and Russians cannot cooperate on such a basic matter as Iran’s nuclear program when it is on the verge of creating a weapon, then it is pointless to maintain dialogue with them because nothing much else will matter.

It is, of course, unlikely that these two nations will reverse course at this time. So we are at one of those moments when conventional diplomacy is failing. When that happens—when what is necessary is no longer considered practical—the world often experiences uncertainty, turbulence, and death in great numbers.

If the Bush administration cannot change the course of events one more time, then we could travel from the best moment in history to the worst. This is, up to now, the ultimate test of American leadership.

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Our Next Message to Beijing

Today, the Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed “serious concern and strong dissatisfaction” with a mistaken shipment of American military parts to Taiwan. It then urged the United States to report the details to Beijing so as to eliminate “severe consequences.” The Taiwanese had requested replacement battery packs for their American-made helicopters. Instead, they received four nose-cone fuse assemblies used to trigger nuclear weapons.

The sharp Chinese reaction came after yesterday’s Pentagon announcement that the Defense Logistics Agency had made the incorrect shipment to Taiwan in August 2006. The Taiwanese had noticed the mistake and contacted U.S. authorities in early 2007, yet it was only last Thursday before anyone in the Defense Department realized what had actually been sent. Defense Secretary Gates and President Bush were informed on Friday.

“Our policy on Taiwan arms sales has not changed,” said Ryan Henry, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, yesterday. “This specific incident was an error in process only, and is not indicative of our policies, which remain unchanged.”

But should they remain unchanged? Many argue that, if we want to make sure there is no war in the Taiwan Strait, we should help the Taiwanese build a bomb or, better yet, just give them a few weapons in order to create a stable balance of terror with China. Moreover, some believe that the threat to arm Taiwan and Japan would be the most effective way to get Beijing to stop supporting the nuclear weapons programs of North Korea and Iran.

These proposals, despite apparent advantages, do not represent sound policy choices, at least at this moment. For one thing, both would be clear violations of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the global pact that in fact prevents the spread of nukes. Yet if we don’t disarm Kim Jong Il and stop Iran’s “atomic ayatollahs” now, we will undoubtedly see the rapid dispersion of nuclear weapons soon. As Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has noted, about forty nations have the capability to develop the bomb within a decade.

The primary reason that prevents them from doing so is the so-called “nuclear taboo,” which is reinforced by the nonproliferation treaty. Once weapons technology starts to spread to dangerous states, however, other nations will have no choice but to accumulate atomic arsenals to defend themselves. When that happens, the nonproliferation agreement will become a dead letter. Some analysts, like Kenneth Waltz, think the world could be more stable then, but I know it will be worse. Things cannot get better when tyrants, terrorists, and thugs will be able to bring on Armageddon.

So what should we now say to the angry Chinese? Today, we should confirm that the shipment to Taiwan was an error. Tomorrow, the message may be different. If the Chinese continue to prevent us from disarming North Korea and stopping Iran, we should say that our next transfer of warhead mechanisms to the Taiwanese will not be a mistake.

Today, the Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed “serious concern and strong dissatisfaction” with a mistaken shipment of American military parts to Taiwan. It then urged the United States to report the details to Beijing so as to eliminate “severe consequences.” The Taiwanese had requested replacement battery packs for their American-made helicopters. Instead, they received four nose-cone fuse assemblies used to trigger nuclear weapons.

The sharp Chinese reaction came after yesterday’s Pentagon announcement that the Defense Logistics Agency had made the incorrect shipment to Taiwan in August 2006. The Taiwanese had noticed the mistake and contacted U.S. authorities in early 2007, yet it was only last Thursday before anyone in the Defense Department realized what had actually been sent. Defense Secretary Gates and President Bush were informed on Friday.

“Our policy on Taiwan arms sales has not changed,” said Ryan Henry, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, yesterday. “This specific incident was an error in process only, and is not indicative of our policies, which remain unchanged.”

But should they remain unchanged? Many argue that, if we want to make sure there is no war in the Taiwan Strait, we should help the Taiwanese build a bomb or, better yet, just give them a few weapons in order to create a stable balance of terror with China. Moreover, some believe that the threat to arm Taiwan and Japan would be the most effective way to get Beijing to stop supporting the nuclear weapons programs of North Korea and Iran.

These proposals, despite apparent advantages, do not represent sound policy choices, at least at this moment. For one thing, both would be clear violations of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the global pact that in fact prevents the spread of nukes. Yet if we don’t disarm Kim Jong Il and stop Iran’s “atomic ayatollahs” now, we will undoubtedly see the rapid dispersion of nuclear weapons soon. As Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has noted, about forty nations have the capability to develop the bomb within a decade.

The primary reason that prevents them from doing so is the so-called “nuclear taboo,” which is reinforced by the nonproliferation treaty. Once weapons technology starts to spread to dangerous states, however, other nations will have no choice but to accumulate atomic arsenals to defend themselves. When that happens, the nonproliferation agreement will become a dead letter. Some analysts, like Kenneth Waltz, think the world could be more stable then, but I know it will be worse. Things cannot get better when tyrants, terrorists, and thugs will be able to bring on Armageddon.

So what should we now say to the angry Chinese? Today, we should confirm that the shipment to Taiwan was an error. Tomorrow, the message may be different. If the Chinese continue to prevent us from disarming North Korea and stopping Iran, we should say that our next transfer of warhead mechanisms to the Taiwanese will not be a mistake.

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No More Carrots for Iran

Less than a week after the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1803, empowering EU foreign policy czar Javier Solana to meet with Iran’s officials for talks on Iran’s nuclear program, Iran has announced that it will only talk to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran’s decision is a slap in the face not only of the Security Council, but of the Europeans, who have long advocated the use of the carrot and stick with Iran–especially the carrot. Rumor had it in Brussels that Europe was preparing a much bigger incentive package for Iran than the one Iran was offered in June 2006–a package which resolution 1803 reiterates. Regardless, for now Iran will only talk to IAEA’s director general, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei.

The word in Brussels is that Iran is not interested in a new European offer because it lacks U.S. backing. The biggest prize for Tehran,  European pundits reason, is an American carrot in the form of explicit security guarantees. This much may be true. But the real reason for Iran to insist on talking with ElBaradei alone, at this point, is that the Director General has shown uncommon kindness to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. His latest report is a near-total whitewash of Iran’s activities. Had it not been for critical evidence supplied to the IAEA by several member states only a few weeks before ElBaradei submitted his report, Iran might have gotten away with its program and would have received a clean bill of health from ElBaradei.

As it happens, ElBaradei–whose track record suggests he is more worried about a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities than Iran getting nuclear weapons–managed to close just about every file of the nuclear dossier, often accepting Iran’s lame explanations at face value.

Will the IAEA’s director general give Iran another free pass in 90 days, when,  as requested by Resolution 1803, he must report again? Given that it took nearly a year for the international community to pass even a largely symbolic resolution, perhaps Iran hopes so. But this would be a mistake on their part–and on ElBaradei’s part as well. Given the evidence submitted to the IAEA and the nature of Iran’s nuclear program, a clean bill of health offered by ElBaradei will only further weaken the international resolve behind non-military pressure on Iran. Which will, of course, help to provide a case for military action to those who cannot afford to live under the shadow of Iran’s nuclear bomb.

Less than a week after the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1803, empowering EU foreign policy czar Javier Solana to meet with Iran’s officials for talks on Iran’s nuclear program, Iran has announced that it will only talk to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran’s decision is a slap in the face not only of the Security Council, but of the Europeans, who have long advocated the use of the carrot and stick with Iran–especially the carrot. Rumor had it in Brussels that Europe was preparing a much bigger incentive package for Iran than the one Iran was offered in June 2006–a package which resolution 1803 reiterates. Regardless, for now Iran will only talk to IAEA’s director general, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei.

The word in Brussels is that Iran is not interested in a new European offer because it lacks U.S. backing. The biggest prize for Tehran,  European pundits reason, is an American carrot in the form of explicit security guarantees. This much may be true. But the real reason for Iran to insist on talking with ElBaradei alone, at this point, is that the Director General has shown uncommon kindness to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. His latest report is a near-total whitewash of Iran’s activities. Had it not been for critical evidence supplied to the IAEA by several member states only a few weeks before ElBaradei submitted his report, Iran might have gotten away with its program and would have received a clean bill of health from ElBaradei.

As it happens, ElBaradei–whose track record suggests he is more worried about a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities than Iran getting nuclear weapons–managed to close just about every file of the nuclear dossier, often accepting Iran’s lame explanations at face value.

Will the IAEA’s director general give Iran another free pass in 90 days, when,  as requested by Resolution 1803, he must report again? Given that it took nearly a year for the international community to pass even a largely symbolic resolution, perhaps Iran hopes so. But this would be a mistake on their part–and on ElBaradei’s part as well. Given the evidence submitted to the IAEA and the nature of Iran’s nuclear program, a clean bill of health offered by ElBaradei will only further weaken the international resolve behind non-military pressure on Iran. Which will, of course, help to provide a case for military action to those who cannot afford to live under the shadow of Iran’s nuclear bomb.

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Iran’s Grand Strategy

This week China and Russia unexpectedly dropped their opposition to a third set of U.N. sanctions on Iran for continuing its enrichment of uranium. Why did they do so? This could be a concerted effort to assist Tehran in its campaign to avoid Security Council involvement in its nuclear program. Unfortunately, the United States may be acquiescing in a course of action that will permit the “atomic ayatollahs” to keep their centrifuges.

Yesterday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov explained that the draft resolution does not contain “any harsh sanctions.” Instead, the draft, which has not yet been released, merely asks nations to be vigilant about transferring prohibited nuclear material. The terms of the new resolution, Lavrov explained, “will be enforced until the International Atomic Energy Agency’s concerns are resolved.”

This statement was certainly music to the ears of the mullahs. On the 12th of this month Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with, and lectured, Mohamed ElBaradei. “There is no justification for Iran’s nuclear dossier to remain at the U.N. Security Council,” Iran’s supreme leader told the head of the IAEA. At the same time Iran pledged to cooperate with ElBaradei’s agency and wrap up all remaining questions within weeks. In a sign of cooperation, Iran allowed ElBaradei and one of his chief deputies to walk around the site where it is developing its advanced P-2 centrifuge. Yesterday, Reuters reported that the IAEA was close to finishing its years-long inquiry on Iran.

Meanwhile, Condoleezza Rice, after failing to get Russia and China to agree to tougher sanctions, adopted a conciliatory tone and offered the prospect of better relations with Tehran. “We could work over time to build a new, more normal relationship—one defined not by fear and mistrust, but growing cooperation, expanding trade and exchange, and the peaceful management of our differences,” said the secretary of state, speaking from Davos yesterday. “This problem can and should be resolved through diplomacy.”

I admire her optimism. On the day she signaled compromise, both Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the country’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili ruled it out. Rice of course insisted that Iran stop enrichment, but the direction of her remarks revealed that the United States had given up confronting the intransigent Iranians.

So, it appears that the IAEA will certify that Iran is not trying to weaponize the atom, the Russians and Chinese will insist that the Security Council end its oversight of Iran, and the United States will meekly go along.

This week China and Russia unexpectedly dropped their opposition to a third set of U.N. sanctions on Iran for continuing its enrichment of uranium. Why did they do so? This could be a concerted effort to assist Tehran in its campaign to avoid Security Council involvement in its nuclear program. Unfortunately, the United States may be acquiescing in a course of action that will permit the “atomic ayatollahs” to keep their centrifuges.

Yesterday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov explained that the draft resolution does not contain “any harsh sanctions.” Instead, the draft, which has not yet been released, merely asks nations to be vigilant about transferring prohibited nuclear material. The terms of the new resolution, Lavrov explained, “will be enforced until the International Atomic Energy Agency’s concerns are resolved.”

This statement was certainly music to the ears of the mullahs. On the 12th of this month Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with, and lectured, Mohamed ElBaradei. “There is no justification for Iran’s nuclear dossier to remain at the U.N. Security Council,” Iran’s supreme leader told the head of the IAEA. At the same time Iran pledged to cooperate with ElBaradei’s agency and wrap up all remaining questions within weeks. In a sign of cooperation, Iran allowed ElBaradei and one of his chief deputies to walk around the site where it is developing its advanced P-2 centrifuge. Yesterday, Reuters reported that the IAEA was close to finishing its years-long inquiry on Iran.

Meanwhile, Condoleezza Rice, after failing to get Russia and China to agree to tougher sanctions, adopted a conciliatory tone and offered the prospect of better relations with Tehran. “We could work over time to build a new, more normal relationship—one defined not by fear and mistrust, but growing cooperation, expanding trade and exchange, and the peaceful management of our differences,” said the secretary of state, speaking from Davos yesterday. “This problem can and should be resolved through diplomacy.”

I admire her optimism. On the day she signaled compromise, both Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the country’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili ruled it out. Rice of course insisted that Iran stop enrichment, but the direction of her remarks revealed that the United States had given up confronting the intransigent Iranians.

So, it appears that the IAEA will certify that Iran is not trying to weaponize the atom, the Russians and Chinese will insist that the Security Council end its oversight of Iran, and the United States will meekly go along.

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A Victory for Ahamdinejad?

The more we learn about the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, the less “confidence” we can have in its sanguine findings about the state of Iran’s nuclear program.

Today comes news that Israel, one of America’s closest collaborators in intelligence-gathering in the Middle East, has reached very different conclusions. Haaretz quotes Ehud Barak, Israel’s former prime minister and now defense minister (and hardly a hawk), as follows:

“It seems Iran in 2003 halted for a certain period of time its military nuclear program but as far as we know it has probably since revived it.”

His comments go to one of the key weaknesses of the NIE. While it claims with “high confidence” that Iran suspended its nuclear-weapons work in 2003, the report offers only “moderate confidence” that this program has not been resumed.

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The more we learn about the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, the less “confidence” we can have in its sanguine findings about the state of Iran’s nuclear program.

Today comes news that Israel, one of America’s closest collaborators in intelligence-gathering in the Middle East, has reached very different conclusions. Haaretz quotes Ehud Barak, Israel’s former prime minister and now defense minister (and hardly a hawk), as follows:

“It seems Iran in 2003 halted for a certain period of time its military nuclear program but as far as we know it has probably since revived it.”

His comments go to one of the key weaknesses of the NIE. While it claims with “high confidence” that Iran suspended its nuclear-weapons work in 2003, the report offers only “moderate confidence” that this program has not been resumed.

Some will no doubt dismiss Israeli officials as being alarmist, although they have a larger stake—a life and death stake—than do American intelligence analysts in figuring out the state of Iran’s nuclear program.

Harder to dismiss are concerns from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has long been criticized for being relatively soft on Iran and other proliferators. While Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the IAEA, greeted the release of the NIE with a “sigh of relief,” others who are involved in his agency’s work are apparently taking a more cautious attitude. The New York Times reports:

“To be frank, we are more skeptical,” a senior official close to the agency said. “We don’t buy the American analysis 100 percent. We are not that generous with Iran.” The official called the American assertion that Iran had “halted” its weapons program in 2003 “somewhat surprising.”

When even some at the IAEA think the U.S. intelligence community is being too generous in its assessment of Iran, that should be cause for serious concern.

And, indeed, whether Iran has restarted its “nuclear weapons program” since 2003 or not, the fact remains that its supposedly “civilian” enrichment work could easily produce a bomb. Indeed, as this New York Times article notes,

After the United States, the Soviet Union, and Britain became the first three countries with atom bombs, all the rest hid their military programs to one extent or another behind the mask of peaceful nuclear power. That includes France, China, Israel, India, South Africa, and Pakistan.

A number of experts have even raised the possibility that Iran may have suspended its “nuclear weapons” work in 2003 because it had already come up with a working bomb design, and now only needs to produce enough highly enriched uranium to create a working bomb. The hardest part of making a nuclear weapon is not the design and production of the warhead; it is the production or procurement of the fissile material. It is quite possible that A.Q. Khan, the rogue Pakistani nuclear scientist, may have provided Iran with a working bomb design. Or perhaps the Iranians have gotten what they need from their friends in North Korea, who were also beneficiaries of the A.Q. Khan network.

Whatever the case, the news, even if accurate, that Iran suspended its “nuclear weapon” work in 2003 is hardly cause for celebration. Unfortunately the NIE’s political impact is out of all proportion to its analytical rigor. It will now be harder than ever to get tough international sanctions on Iran.

As noted by CNN, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is claiming “victory,” declaring that “the report said clearly that the Iranian people were on the right course” and that “Iran has turned to a nuclear country and all world countries have accepted this fact.” Much as I would like to think that Ahmadinejad is wrong, in this case I think he has a point.

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Russia’s Question

Yesterday, Moscow took one more step away from the West when it announced that it would not support tougher sanctions against Iran for failing to halt its efforts to enrich uranium. The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to discuss implementing a third set of coercive measures against Tehran. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his country wants to give the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, additional time to obtain cooperation from Iran pursuant to a deal arranged last month. On Friday, China announced its desire to see more negotiations with the Iranians, thereby supporting the Kremlin.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, at the conclusion of his meeting with Lavrov in Moscow, said yesterday that, should the Security Council fail to impose new measures, the European Union should create a sanctions regime similar to America’s. That set off Lavrov: “If we decided to act collectively on the basis of consensual decisions in the U.N. Security Council, what good does it do to take unilateral decisions?”

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Yesterday, Moscow took one more step away from the West when it announced that it would not support tougher sanctions against Iran for failing to halt its efforts to enrich uranium. The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to discuss implementing a third set of coercive measures against Tehran. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his country wants to give the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, additional time to obtain cooperation from Iran pursuant to a deal arranged last month. On Friday, China announced its desire to see more negotiations with the Iranians, thereby supporting the Kremlin.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, at the conclusion of his meeting with Lavrov in Moscow, said yesterday that, should the Security Council fail to impose new measures, the European Union should create a sanctions regime similar to America’s. That set off Lavrov: “If we decided to act collectively on the basis of consensual decisions in the U.N. Security Council, what good does it do to take unilateral decisions?”

The assumption implicit in Lavrov’s question is that the world’s great powers, acting together, can solve the world’s great problems. It is the basis of Bush administration policy. It is the notion that all of us want to believe. It is, unfortunately, no longer true—if it ever was.

Why? On Monday, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, trying to forestall the talk of war over Iran, asked the West to remember the lessons of Iraq. I do, and here they are in ascending order of importance: the American military can destroy almost any adversary, democracy cannot be imposed by force, and the concept of collective security no longer works. Before President Bush talked about democracy in Iraq, even before he mentioned weapons of mass destruction, American diplomats discussed the failure of the United Nations to enforce its own resolutions against Saddam’s regime.

Russia and China this week have made it clear they will side with Iran until the theocrats announce they have the bomb—all the while saying they are defending the concept of joint action. As Thomas Friedman says, we are entering the post-post-cold-war period. And in that period the West has no choice but to realize that the world’s authoritarian nations are banding together, and Russia and China are undermining the concept of collective security. Whether we like it or not, we are now engaged in a series of global struggles, with neither Beijing nor Moscow on our side.

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“The Worst, Sir, Is War.”

Yesterday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, while calling for more effective sanctions against Iran, said that the world should be getting ready to use force to prevent that country from developing nuclear weapons. “We must prepare for the worst,” he said. “The worst, sir, is war.”

Unfortunately, peaceful efforts to stop Iran’s theocrats have been getting nowhere. In July of last year, the U.N. Security Council demanded that Tehran stop its efforts to enrich uranium; the Council then imposed two sets of sanctions, in December and March. In response to these actions, Tehran has issued a series of increasingly defiant refusals to comply. It has, however, enlisted an invaluable ally. Last month, Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, undercut the Security Council sanctions by cutting a deal with Iran. The arrangement, which seeks Iran’s cooperation, does not require the country to stop enrichment and effectively prevents the Security Council from enacting a needed third set of coercive measures.

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Yesterday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, while calling for more effective sanctions against Iran, said that the world should be getting ready to use force to prevent that country from developing nuclear weapons. “We must prepare for the worst,” he said. “The worst, sir, is war.”

Unfortunately, peaceful efforts to stop Iran’s theocrats have been getting nowhere. In July of last year, the U.N. Security Council demanded that Tehran stop its efforts to enrich uranium; the Council then imposed two sets of sanctions, in December and March. In response to these actions, Tehran has issued a series of increasingly defiant refusals to comply. It has, however, enlisted an invaluable ally. Last month, Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, undercut the Security Council sanctions by cutting a deal with Iran. The arrangement, which seeks Iran’s cooperation, does not require the country to stop enrichment and effectively prevents the Security Council from enacting a needed third set of coercive measures.

In the last few days, Tehran has made even more progress. On September 10, Itar-Tass carried a report suggesting that Russia had settled its differences with Iran and had agreed to supply uranium to the Bushehr nuclear plant. On Friday, Beijing issued its latest pronouncement, which essentially endorsed Iran’s delaying tactics.

Time, unfortunately, is growing short. It appears that at some point in the next two years Iranian specialists, unless they are stopped, will gain all the technology and know-how necessary for the building of a nuclear weapon. It would be wonderful if peaceful methods would deter Iran, but that appears extremely unlikely. Russia and China have demonstrated that they will use their Security Council vetoes to prevent the U.N. from imposing meaningful sanctions, and American and EU measures, on their own, will not be sufficient.

Yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaking on Fox News Sunday, said the Bush administration is committed to “diplomatic and economic means” to stop Iran. We all want peaceful solutions, but as each day passes it becomes increasingly clear that Gates’s words have no substantive content; he has been unable to persuade Russia and China to take a clear stand against Iran.

So Kouchner was right to get the West to focus on an unpleasant reality. We are rapidly approaching the point where we have to make a consequential decision—either accept Iran as a nuclear weapons state or take away its arms by force.

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Crazed Kaletsky

London Times columnist Anatole Kaletsky is a guru to the kind of people who are gullible enough to be impressed by a smattering of economics. His columns typically skate over the arguments, while always hinting at a vast body of evidence to back up his wilder assertions.

Now Kaletsky has launched a pre-emptive strike against those in the United States who believe that Iran must be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons at all costs, and specifically Norman Podhoretz in COMMENTARY. (Kaletsky’s article can be read here.)

Kaletsky makes no attempt to answer Podhoretz’s arguments, which are detailed and cogent. True to form, he prefers to dismiss the Iranian nuclear threat in favor of ad hominem abuse. Echoing the U.N. nuclear inspector Mohamed ElBaradei, who slanders those who advocate a tough line with Iran as “crazies,” Kaletsky makes some crazy claims himself: “There is now strong evidence,” he writes, “that President Bush didn’t even know the difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims when he decided to attack Iraq.” Kaletsky produces no such evidence, for the simple reason that the claim is demonstrably untrue.

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London Times columnist Anatole Kaletsky is a guru to the kind of people who are gullible enough to be impressed by a smattering of economics. His columns typically skate over the arguments, while always hinting at a vast body of evidence to back up his wilder assertions.

Now Kaletsky has launched a pre-emptive strike against those in the United States who believe that Iran must be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons at all costs, and specifically Norman Podhoretz in COMMENTARY. (Kaletsky’s article can be read here.)

Kaletsky makes no attempt to answer Podhoretz’s arguments, which are detailed and cogent. True to form, he prefers to dismiss the Iranian nuclear threat in favor of ad hominem abuse. Echoing the U.N. nuclear inspector Mohamed ElBaradei, who slanders those who advocate a tough line with Iran as “crazies,” Kaletsky makes some crazy claims himself: “There is now strong evidence,” he writes, “that President Bush didn’t even know the difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims when he decided to attack Iraq.” Kaletsky produces no such evidence, for the simple reason that the claim is demonstrably untrue.

Kalestsky has been trying to persuade Gordon Brown to break with Tony Blair’s policies for some time. Now Kaletsky urges Brown to choose what he calls the “genuinely courageous option”:

This is to positively forestall further disasters by breaking publicly with the Bush Administration and trying to develop a genuine European alternative to the suicidal American-led policies, not only in Iraq, but also in Israel, Palestine and Iran.

We shall soon see if Brown is foolish enough to listen to such voices. On an unannounced visit to Iraq a few days ago, Brown sought to reassure Iraqi officials that he has no intention of ordering a precipitous withdrawal of British forces. It is unlikely that Brown would have done this if he were on the point of breaking with the Bush Administration—or even with his predecessor’s foreign policy.

It would be fatal for a new British prime minister to try to exploit anti-Americanism just as Nicolas Sarkozy in France and Angela Merkel in Germany are both mending fences with Washington, while central and eastern Europeans are falling back on NATO in the face of bullying by Putin’s Russia.

If Brown were to distance his government from the United States or Israel, he would quickly discover exactly why Blair values these alliances so much. For when the war on Islamist terror widens into a direct confrontation with Iran, as it is very likely to do during the remainder of Bush’s and Brown’s terms of office, those European states that have failed the Iraqis so badly will suddenly require American protection against missile attack. They will also need American intelligence. If the Iranians were to carry out their threat to activate terrorist cells, possibly armed with WMD, in Europe, then U.S. assistance—logistical, medical, and military—could be needed on a large scale.

The “crazies” are not those who are now urging Americans to start behaving as if they were at war. America is at war. So is Europe. Thanks to the likes of Kaletsky, Europeans just don’t know it yet.

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Iran’s Enabler

Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, riled up Washington and Brussels earlier this month by declaring that they shouldn’t try to stop Iran from enriching uranium. The United Nations, prodded by the West, had imposed two sets of sanctions on Tehran for continuing enrichment in defiance of a Security Council resolution passed last July. The second set of sanctions was enacted this March, but Tehran has given no indication that it will halt its nuclear program. In response, Western diplomats are now considering a third set of sanctions. (COMMENTARY’s editor-at-large Norman Podhoretz has weighed in on this predicament, as well.)

ElBaradei stated that the UN demand to halt enrichment “has been superseded by events”—the Iranians have already obtained the necessary technology. The international community, he suggested, should engage the Iranians “in a comprehensive dialogue.” ElBaradei also suggested that Tehran be permitted to keep some elements of an enrichment program.

There are any number of fundamental objections to these comments. The chief of the UN’s nuclear watchdog group should not publicly undermine the acts of the world body. ElBaradei may have been handed humanity’s most coveted award, the Nobel Peace Prize, but he still has an obligation to support the Security Council.

Moreover, his suggested approach—“dialogue”—has been tried since 2002, when Iranian dissidents first disclosed the existence of Tehran’s nuclear facilities at Natanz and Arak. A half-decade of meetings, talks, and discussions has conclusively demonstrated that the country’s leadership is not interested in good faith negotiations. ElBaradei’s comments also establish incentives for destabilizing the world’s arms-control regime. He is effectively saying to nuclearizing rogue states that the IAEA rewards successful defiance of UN prohibitions and sanctions.

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Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, riled up Washington and Brussels earlier this month by declaring that they shouldn’t try to stop Iran from enriching uranium. The United Nations, prodded by the West, had imposed two sets of sanctions on Tehran for continuing enrichment in defiance of a Security Council resolution passed last July. The second set of sanctions was enacted this March, but Tehran has given no indication that it will halt its nuclear program. In response, Western diplomats are now considering a third set of sanctions. (COMMENTARY’s editor-at-large Norman Podhoretz has weighed in on this predicament, as well.)

ElBaradei stated that the UN demand to halt enrichment “has been superseded by events”—the Iranians have already obtained the necessary technology. The international community, he suggested, should engage the Iranians “in a comprehensive dialogue.” ElBaradei also suggested that Tehran be permitted to keep some elements of an enrichment program.

There are any number of fundamental objections to these comments. The chief of the UN’s nuclear watchdog group should not publicly undermine the acts of the world body. ElBaradei may have been handed humanity’s most coveted award, the Nobel Peace Prize, but he still has an obligation to support the Security Council.

Moreover, his suggested approach—“dialogue”—has been tried since 2002, when Iranian dissidents first disclosed the existence of Tehran’s nuclear facilities at Natanz and Arak. A half-decade of meetings, talks, and discussions has conclusively demonstrated that the country’s leadership is not interested in good faith negotiations. ElBaradei’s comments also establish incentives for destabilizing the world’s arms-control regime. He is effectively saying to nuclearizing rogue states that the IAEA rewards successful defiance of UN prohibitions and sanctions.

In doing so, he also makes war more likely—his comments undercut the force of the UN sanctions. Sanctions may ultimately not disarm the Iranian government, but at this moment they are the last tactic on the road to military action. They are contributing to the already severe woes of the Iranian economy, in the hopes of inducing Ahmadinejad to stop the nuclear program. Western banks are breaking off business ties with the regime, and pressure from Washington is persuading European energy companies to reevaluate investing in Iran.

Sanctions cannot work unless the international community joins together behind them. But Mohamed ElBaradei is standing in the way. He is not giving coercive diplomacy a chance, and if he succeeds in eroding support for still-tougher diplomatic measures, the only way to stop the Iranian mullahs will be war.

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