Topic: Bush Administraiton
On the diplomatic track, we're getting nowhere fast. After another fruitless get-together on Iran in Moscow, the under-secretary of state, Nicholas Burns, said yesterday that all sides agreed that Iran should stop its enrichment program...and that's about it. Burns offered that if the UN wouldn't do anything maybe individual countries could. Russia should stop selling missiles to Iran, for a start, and he said: "Its time for countries to start using their influence." Burns prefers to go through the UN Security Council, but "it's not beyond the realm of the possible that at some point in the future" other countries might, "take collective economic action or collective action on sanctions." (Or not.)
The NYT reports that the European chief negotiator, Javier Solana, has advocated penalties on Iran that would include, "stricter export controls on high technology shipments to Iran and revocation of visas for Iranian officials linked to the nuclear program." The Times noted, though, that another official pointed out that Solana had said these proposals were "options for reflection" not "options for action." For the Russian's part, Foreign Minister Sergie Lavrov said he would need proof that Iran is actually building a bomb before he would support sanctions.
While Burns is getting nowhere on convincing the rest of the world to do anything about Iran, the State Department's top arms-control official, Robert Joseph, is pushing the panic button. He says, "In terms of activities on the ground in Iran, it's fair to say, I believe, that the Iranians have put both feet on the accelerator." He also went on to say that, "We are very close to that point of no return." (Isn't that what the Israelis have been saying for the past year?)
Rummy backed up this assertion, in the friendly confines of the Laura Ingrahm show, by saying he has no confidence in the CIA's estimate that Iran is five to ten years away from having a bomb. "I think it's very difficult target for our intelligence community. They work hard at it, and they're fine people, but it's a difficult thing to do. Our visibility into their circumstance is imperfect." In other words, "the absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence."
Regime change, again:
And even if the CIA's intelligence is correct, that doesn't mean we're not going to go in with guns blazing anyway. Today the NYT reports that yet another former CIA official has come out to say that Rummy & Co. ignored evidence that Iraq didn't have WMD. Tyler Drumheller, the CIA's former head of the European operation, is going to say on 60 Minutes this Sunday that a paid informant in Saddam's inner circle, Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, told the CIA in September of 2002 that Iraq had no WMD. [Reuters]
CIA chief George Tenet, Bush and Cheney all knew this, so Drumheller thought the war must be off. He was surprised to find out shortly afterwards that it wasn't. Drumheller recalled, "And we said, 'Well, what about the intel?' And they said, 'Well, this isn't about intel anymore. This is about regime change."
That's the plan in Iran, too: Regime change. The U.S. going to spend $80 million to broadcast anti-regime propaganda into Iran and support organizations that want democracy in Iran. Of course, this type of thing could backfire. Michael Hirsh in an article in Newsweek points out that, "outside interference tends to enrage Iranians, who have never forgiven Washington for the CIA-assisted coup that toppled elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953."
Iran's ambassador to the UN, Javad Zarif, says, "It’s not new. They increased their activities in Iran two or three years ago and now instead of a reformist president we have a conservative president. That tells you how successful they were." Remember, Bush came out before the Iranian elections and questioned their legitimacy, which just pissed Iranians off even more. Hirsh writes that, "Even affluent voters who said they hated the Shiite mullahs told a Newsweek reporter in Iran at the time that American arrogance so angered them that they decided to vote for Ahmandinjad, the radical candidate."
So, what are the options here? Trying to force democracy down the Iranian's throats doesn’t seem to be going too well and the rest of the world doesn't appear to be buying the line that Iran is the biggest threat to world peace since Hitler, either. The military option is "on the table," but that would be a catastrophe of biblical proportions if we used it, so the only other option is talking to the Iranians one-on-one. If W. & CO. were really as interested in a peaceful solution as they profess to be, they would do everything possible, including talking to the Iranians.
But U.N. ambassador John Bolton told the Inquirer yesterday that "we have nothing to say to them." Bolton complains that, "One of the ironies here is that the Bush administration so often is criticized for being unilateralist cowboys, but we've been trying for 3 1/2 years to work our way through the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency and [are] now trying to work our way through the U.N Security Council. But the purpose of these efforts is not just to chitchat about the Iranian nuclear-weapons efforts, but to bring them to a halt."
Of course, the truth is that for the past five years, beyond calling Iran part of the "axis of evil," the Bush administration has done zilch on Iran. They haven't been "trying for 3 1/2 years" to do anything, they've outsourced the diplomacy to the Europeans. W. & Co. have been dithering on Iran the entire time they've been in office and it's just now that they've gotten around to developing a policy of their own and, typically, it's all big sticks and no carrots.
I'm with Tom Friedman on this, if there's a "choice between another Rumsfeld-led confrontation and just letting Iran get nukes and living with it, we should opt for the latter."