Amid all of the White House’s saber-rattling, it is tempting to discount Iran’s genuine misbehavior. The latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency is a grim reminder that Tehran is pressing ahead with its nuclear program, and the United States and its allies don’t have a strategy for containing it.
"Tempting to discount Iran's genuine misbehavior?" It has been discounted by about everyone. Here, let me say it for you - Iran intends to build nuclear weapons.
And, of course, the last line is a load as well. There's a very simple strategy for containing it - you blow their capability to pieces with a strike. All eighty-something sites reduced to pebble size rubble.
For the US there's always a strategy to deal with it if we're A) willing to pay the price diplomatically as well as militarily and B) willing to jeopardize the mission in Iraq (and some would add a C) willing to lose the November election). It is a situation, of course, of the administration's own making.
For the rest of the "civilized world", not so much. Willingness I mean. Nope, to this point it has all been rhetoric without substantive action.
Then comes the latest IAEA report in which Iran's apparent intent couldn't be clearer:
For the last five years, Iran has been playing cat-and-mouse with nuclear inspectors. The I.A.E.A. turns up worrying hints of illicit activities, and Iran’s leaders insist they are trying to produce nuclear energy, not a bomb. Iranian officials then balk at answering critical questions, providing essential documents or access to related sites, leaving the world no choice but to suspect the worst. The I.A.E.A. often couches its findings in soothing diplomatese. But the latest report makes clear that its experts are deeply frustrated.
The report says that Iran continues to defy the United Nations Security Council by enriching uranium — usable for reactors, or with a little more work, a weapon — and is building ever-more-powerful centrifuges. It also expresses serious concerns about evidence (outlined in 18 documents accompanying the report) that Iran is working on programs with clear military applications: developing high-voltage detonators, underground testing and redesigning the Shahab-3 missile, possibly to accommodate a nuclear warhead.
And why, as the report asks, is Iran’s military involved in “procurement activities” for the program if it is intended only for nuclear power? Why indeed.
Heh ... nice to see the NYT finally figure it out after 5 years, isn't it?
But then we get to the crux of the NYT editorial. It has outlined the problem and it has given us the probable outcome. So what do they then declare?
This latest report is alarming, but it must not be used as an excuse by Washington hard-liners to launch another war. There are no good military options.
If it is true there are no good military options it is because of influential media sources (and the Democrats) such as the NYT that's the case.
Let's go back to the "ABC" above. In NYT world, it is much better to be liked by the rest of the world (Iran being an obvious exception) than feared or respected. So, given the diplomatic repercussions of a strike like this on our slowly recovering "likability" index, why, we just can't do something like strike Iran. No, we must avoid such a "misadventure" at all costs. (A mushroom cloud over Israel, however, would surely evoke a completely different sense of outrage directed at the do-nothing administration which allowed Iran to get the bomb and use it.)
And "C" - if we did strike Iran, the NYT would do everything in its power to ensure the parties changed in the White House (not that it won't anyway, but hey, this would really frost the cake).
In fact, "B" is the only viable reason to not strike Iran at this particular moment, and that may change over the coming months.
Anyway, having ruled out anything military concerning Iran, what great and wonderful solution does the NYT suggest to deal with an intransigent and rogue nation which has rejected every incentive and laughed at every sanction?
Why incentives and sanctions, of course:
The United States and the other major powers — Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — have yet to put together a serious package of incentives and sanctions that might persuade Iran to change course.
That must include a credible American offer of security guarantees and normalized relations if Tehran abandons any nuclear weapons ambitions. If Iran persists, it must face sanctions with a lot more bite than Russia and China have been willing to consider, including a broader ban on doing business with Iranian banks and bans on arms sales and new investments in Iran.
Anyone - under what auspices will both China and Russia insist any such "sanctions and incentives" be formulated?
The UN. And what does that then give those two countries? Veto power. Given Russia's economic relationship with Iran and China's growing oil relationship, tell me which of them is most likely to put more "bite" in sanctions against Iran?
Yeah, neither. So the NYT takes the "military option" off the table yet demands that worse sanctions and better incentives be formulated by nations with no incentive to do so.
Sounds like something Barack Obama would come up with. Or Jimmy Carter.
Amid all of the White House’s saber-rattling, it is tempting to discount Iran’s genuine misbehavior.
What an incredibly revealing sentence! It clearly implies "If the White House says something is true, our automatic position is to discount it."
That’s not rationality, that’s not "reality-based". That’s ideologically-blinkered.
The reality is that reasonable people will always be in disagreement about many things, but you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) start from the presumption that the "other side" is automatically wrong.
Furthermore, when you take this attitude, you cede an amazing amount of power to your opponent, allowing them to control your attitudes about things. What "Rovian" masterstrokes there have been have all been based on this, and personally I think it has been underused by the Administration. Not to mention the observed 100% flip-flop of Democrats on the terror issue in the last ten years, driven not so much by ideology but sheer, simple(-minded) opposition to Republicans, as Leiberman recently observed.
This is the very definition of poisonous partisanship. No wonder the Left has been so remarkably impotent in the face of a blindingly incompetent Republican Congress; compromise is required to get things done and if you can’t compromise because you can’t stand to be in anything less than 100% opposition, nothing will get done.