May 7, 2010

Biden Barks - Tehran Trembles?

While on a European tour, Vice President Joe Biden this week warned Iran about its nuclear program. He said, "Iran's nuclear program violates its obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and risks sparking a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Tehran faces a stark choice, abide by international rules and rejoin the community of responsible nations, which we hope for, or face further consequences and increasing isolation."

Two questions immediately come to mind. Does anyone take Biden seriously? It appears that even the Obama Administration (the VP insists on calling it the Obama-Biden Administration) has marginalized him, like sending him off to Europe where hopefully in an Obama-friendly environment his gift for gaffe won't cause too much damage.

The second question, and by far the more important of the two - does anyone think that the Iranians take American threats seriously? Words like "further consequences" are laughable. The word "further" indicates that there are existing consequences - in reality there have been none. The Iranians have pursued nuclear technology and a nuclear weapons capability unimpeded despite this Administration's outreach program and when that failed, what were supposed to be "biting" and "crippling" sanctions.

The sanctions are a joke. This is the responsibility of the Secretary of State, who so far has failed to get anything resembling meaningful sanctions through the United Nations. A successful fourth sanctions protocol (the first three have been grossly ineffective) requires the approval, or at least the acquiescence, of the five permanent members of the Security Council. While the United Kingdom and France stand with the United States, the Russians and Chinese are reluctant to hurt Iran, a major trading partner of both nations.

There have been claims by the Administration, both the President and Secretary of State, that the Russians and Chinese will support sanctions. At the same time, we read statements by representatives of those countries that they want to give diplomacy another chance, that incremental sanctions might be better - anything but the "biting" and "crippling" sanctions we were led to expect.

Then we hear that the White House has asked Congress to exempt Chinese and Russian companies from a sanctions bill being debated now. This is, as I have said earlier, the
epitome of sleaze. I suspect that exemption is the quid pro quo for Chinese and Russian support for what will be another round of ineffective, meaningless sanctions on Iran. As they say in the Middle East, hibr 'ala waraq (ink on paper).

Of course, Biden could not help to appease his audience with the reiteration of the Obama Administration's - pardon me, the Obama-Biden Administration's - goals to end aggressive interrogations and to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. While this is a great sound bite - especially in Europe - it falls on deaf ears at home in the wake the Christmas airline and Times Square bombing attempts. Most Americans would probably endorse water boarding these perpetrators, or in the case of Shahzad, a traitor.

Mr. Vice President, I know it's nice to travel in Europe. Please spend hundreds of thousands of dollars that we can ill afford, but do not insult my intelligence that you think you are delivering a threat to the Iranians. They have seen you for what you and the "Obama-Biden Administration" are, to coin a phrase from an earlier era, "all hat and no cattle." Your - yes, the Obama-Biden Administration - policies, the outreach, the engagement, the claimed "biting" and "crippling" sanctions are merely a talking point.

The Iranians judge you on your actions, which to date are nothing. You can bark all you want, but no one in Tehran is taking you seriously. You articulate a failed policy; all the while they enrich uranium and plan on their nuclear arsenal.