November 19, 2009

Iran must be getting worried now...not

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

According to news reporting from President Obama's Asia tour, the United States and its allies are "discussing possible new penalties to bring fresh pressure on Iran" for its intransigence over its nuclear research and development program. Iranian leaders announced Wednesday that the country would not agree to export its low-enriched uranium, as it had agreed to earlier, but did stress its willingness to continue to talk about the nuclear issue.

Is anyone deducing a pattern here? The Iranians make an agreement, then renege on the agreement, then agree to more talks about an agreement. All they have really committed to do is talk. When those talks fail, they agree to talk about more talks. All the while, thousands of centrifuges continue to enrich uranium. At some point, the Iranians will have enough uranium that can be further processed into weapons grade fissile material to manufacture a nuclear weapon. Of course, they will still be willing to talk about it.

The American and West's reaction? We're going to consider and "discuss possible new penalties." They are enriching uranium in defiance of virtually the entire world, and we are talking about doing something - we don't know what exactly, but according to the President, our patience is wearing thin. The meaning of "wearing thin" is open to interpretation. Iran has been playing this delaying game for years, successfully.

President Obama is now "preparing for the next phase" if Iran does not meet Obama's year-end deadline - that must be the definition of wearing thin. Of course, the President has a problem with deadlines, so why should the Iranians take his deadline seriously? A series health care reform deadlines have been missed, and it is a foregone conclusion that the one-year deadline to close Guantanamo will be missed. So, why should the Iranians be worried?

In the President's own words, "They have been unable to get to 'yes', and so as a consequence, we have begun discussions with our international partners about the importance of having consequences. Our expectation is, is that over the next several weeks we will be developing a package of potential steps that we could take that will indicate our seriousness to Iran."

Surprisingly, this was described in the media as "tough talk." Well, they got the second words correct - talk. Obama talks - I am sorry, I mean "begun discussions" - the Iranians talk, everybody talks. Ah, but the Iranians are also continuing their nuclear program unabated. This is exactly the Iranian plan - talk, delay, talk, delay, knowing full well that there is little chance of effective sanctions.

The Iranian intelligence services have probably prepared their version of a National Intelligence Estimate assessing that an American military strike on their facilities is highly unlikely. If by some chance President Obama was to consider it, the decision would take so long that the Iranians may have a nuclear weapon by then. If the President cannot make a decision on troop levels for the ongoing military operation in Afghanistan, the Iranian intelligence services likely doubt he will be able to make one quickly on this issue.

The Iranians also have correctly assessed that their two friends on the United Nations Security Council - Russia and China - each with veto power, are not likely to agree to effective sanctions. Iran's energy sector, the primary weakness that could be exploited, is off the table. So much for the "crippling sanctions" promised by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The Iranians have outplayed the Obama Administration - and by that I mean the President and his Secretary of State - at every turn. Is it any wonder that the Iranians do not take their threats seriously?