January 4, 2010

Iran again outmaneuvering the West

Iran continues its relatively successful foreign policy into the new year. On the second day of the new decade, the Islamic Republic issued an ultimatum to the group of nations that are demanding Iran stop its uranium enrichment activities. The Iranian ultimatum gives the groups of nations one month to accept an Iranian counter offer to a proposal to export Iran's enriched uranium exchange for nuclear fuel rods that cannot be weaponized.

This is just more of Iran's tactic to delay any consequences for failing to meet any United Nations, European Union or American deadlines for halting their nuclear program. Every time there is the threat of some form of action - usually sanctions are mentioned - the Iranians either offer to resume talks or issue threats.

It seems to be working. The Italian foreign minister recently stated that the world should not seek to isolate - in other words, no sanctions - Iran because of its human rights abuses and continuing nuclear program. The minister cited Iran's ties to Hizballah, Hams and Syria as the reasons we should look to Tehran as a possible intermediary. Che cosa ha detto, signore? Those are exactly the reasons we should be isolating Iran....

Iran's ultimatum - that's the exact word used by Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki - and Italy's unusual statement was followed by the typical response by the United States. The headline read that the United States was going to "consider" sanctions focused on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Someone must have thought that was too harsh, because one day later Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that the United States was still open to talks with Iran.

Once again, no one is holding the Iranians responsible. For some reason the West is afraid to take action against them. The Iranians have figured it out - no one has the stomach for harsh effective sanctions, including the Americans.

The Iranian leadership believes - rightly so, apparently - that they are winning the diplomatic battle over their nuclear program. The rest of the world sets deadlines, all of which are ignored by Tehran. There are no consequences. In fact, Iranian intransigence seems to be rewarded with concessions that the world will wait just a little longer, then sanctions will be imposed. The problem with these threats is that no one takes them seriously.

Whether you agree with the Iranians or not, you have to admire their ability to diplomatically outmaneuver virtually the entire world.