WARNING: DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THIS MAN. He has thus far out-politicked two American administrations, the United Nations and the European Union.
While in Copenhagen for the climate change conference, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - besides bashing the United States for all the world's ills - continued his successful strategy for dealing with the issue of his country's nuclear weapons program. Yes, a nuclear weapons program - I am not aware of anyone who seriously believes the Iranian regime's claims that their nuclear program is for the development of electric power generation capability.
As I predicted when the Iranians "agreed" in October to export their low-enriched uranium to be processed in Russia and France into fuel rods - and not by the Iranians into weapons grade fissile material - the "done deal" fell apart. There never was a deal - there was only an Iranian statement. As soon as the talks ended, the Iranian government rejected the proposal, making the parties on the other side of the table look impotent. That group consisted of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (US, UK, France, Russia and China) plus Germany, called the P5+1.
Making the rejection appear to be an internal Iranian government debate was a clever ruse. There are only two people that count in Iranian politics - Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmound Ahmadinejad, and in that order. Iran would not have a nuclear program without the direct involvement of these two officials. It is a key priority for them to elevate Iran to the status of a nuclear armed nation. They have no intention of abandoning that goal.
To that end, Ahmadinejad will say whatever is necessary to advance the program. Advancing the program now means staving off effective sanctions on Iran. That involves seeming to agree to talks with the P5+1 or the EU, all the while delaying the imposition of sanctions. Ahmadinejad is also trying (successfully) to cultivate a special relationship with China. China is the key to effective sanctions, and thus far the Chinese have been reluctant to abandon diplomacy (basically that is talking) in favor of action.
Just when we approach another artificial American deadline of the end of the year, and an EU artificial deadline next month, Ahmadinejad once again raised the possibility of an agreement if only the United States and the West "respect the Islamic Republic and stop making threats." It is important to note that if these conditions are met, Iran is willing to, yes, talk about an agreement. That agreement will not include exporting Iran's low-enriched uranium.
This all sounds ludicrous, but Ahmadinejad has successfully evaded effective, coordinated sanctions for years. All the while, he talks about agreements, yet there is never anything more to these agreements than an agreement to future talks.
I wonder how long the Obama administration is going to be outsmarted by this guy. Obviously, Ahmadinejad has no intention of striking an agreement that curbs his nuclear ambition, so why are we continuing this kabuki dance?
If I were president...
I would publicly state to Ahmadinejad that the United States will not permit Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. If that sounds a bit imperialistic, so be it. We cannot live with Iran in possession of nuclear weapons. Not only are we unsure of what they will do with that capability, but it is not certain they would not supply a weapon to its client terrorist groups - Hizballah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad to name a few.
Do not think this is too far-fetched. Ahmadinejad has often spoken of hastening the return of the Mahdi, the 12th imam of Shi'a Islam - in other words, Armageddon. This is not rhetoric - Ahmadinejad is a true believer, and true believers can be dangerous.
We should not underestimate this man. We should be seeking his - and Khamenei's - demise.