December 31, 2009 was the deadline Obama gave the mad mullahs to respond to his more than generous offers regarding their nuclear program. The Iranians did not accept. And now, after years of negotiations and after years of one missed deadline after another, we have yet another deadline - this one from Ahmedinejad:
Iran warned on Saturday the West has until the end of the month to accept Teheran's counterproposal to a UN-drafted plan on a nuclear exchange, or the country will start producing nuclear fuel on its own.
The warning was a show of defiance and a hardening in Iran's stance over its controversial nuclear program, which the West fears masks an effort to make nuclear weapons. Teheran insists the program is only for peaceful, electricity production purposes and says it has no intention of making a bomb.
"We have given them an ultimatum. There is one month left and that is by the end of January," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said, speaking on state television.
To add to that, our current administration, animated seemingly as much by the spirit of William Borah as by Neville Chamberlain, had floated plans to send John Kerry to Iran to give one last chance at talks. If there is still anyone who believes that talks and carrots have any chance whatsoever of convincing the mad mullahs to stop their march towards a nuclear weapon, they are more out of touch with reality than Timothy Leary on a LSD bender. But no matter, we learn today that the mad mullahs have officially withdrawn the welcome mat, denying Kerry a visa. For once, the mad mullahs have done something most Americans can support.
A recent NYT report states that the Obama administration has been successful in convincing the Israelis to stay their plans to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities. This will buy Obama time to do whatever dithering it is he now intends to do. That "dithering" is spelled out by the NYT:
As President Obama faces pressure to back up his year-end ultimatum for diplomatic progress with Iran, the administration says that domestic unrest and signs of unexpected trouble in Tehran’s nuclear program make its leaders particularly vulnerable to strong and immediate new sanctions.. . .
Sanctions against Iran have a history at this point, and that history is of being wholly ineffective. Neither Russia nor China will agree to the type of economy crippling sanctions that might have a chance of working. And any sanctions that actually bite will, unless carefully circumscribed, bite the Iranian people as a whole. Given that Iran is not all that far from revolution at the moment, that would not be a wise idea. That said, there is a very small silver lining in this otherwise very dark cloud bank:
The White House wants to focus the new sanctions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the military force believed to run the nuclear weapons effort. That force has also played a crucial role in the repression of antigovernment demonstrators since the disputed presidential election in June.
At least Obama is trying to surgically target sanctions at Iran's praetorian guard, the IRGC. That said, it would seem that the administration is going to pursue sanctions not as an adjunct to seeking regime change, but instead of.
Although repeated rounds of sanctions over many years have not dissuaded Iran from pursuing nuclear technology, an administration official involved in the Iran policy said the hope was that the current troubles “give us a window to impose the first sanctions that may make the Iranians think the nuclear program isn’t worth the price tag.
One, it makes no logical sense to think that the unrest in Iran has slowed down the march to a nuclear weapon in the slightest. Merely because Khameini is giving out orders to crush protests does not mean Natantz shuts down or that nuclear scientists at an IRGC base in Qom stop working on a nuclear trigger. Two, Obama is apparently ideologically set against supporting regime change in Iran. The article quoted above suggests that his administration sees the unrest in Iran as merely an opportunity to get the regime to forgo its nuclear operations. Yet it is only regime change that will end the threat to the world posed by the mad mullahs. Both the history of this most evil of regimes and their apocalyptic and triumphalist ideology tell us that anything that might slow down their march towards a nuclear weapon will do so, if at all, then only temporarily.
It also appears from the NYT article that the administration is leaking information that suggests we have a bit of breathing space because Iran's nuclear program is experiencing problems. This also from the NYT:
While outsiders have a limited view of Iran’s nuclear program, the Obama administration officials said they believed that the bomb-development effort was seriously derailed by the exposure three months ago of the country’s secret enrichment plant under construction near the holy city of Qum. Exposure of the site deprived Iran of its best chance of covertly producing the highly enriched uranium needed to make fuel for nuclear weapons.
In addition, international nuclear inspectors report that at Iran’s plant in Natanz, where thousands of centrifuges spin to enrich uranium for nuclear fuel, the number of the machines that are currently operating has dropped by 20 percent since the summer, a decline nuclear experts attribute to technical problems. Others, including some European officials, believe the problems may have been accentuated by a series of covert efforts by the West to undermine Iran’s program, including sabotage on its imported equipment and infrastructure.
These factors have led the administration’s policy makers to lengthen their estimate of how long it would take Iran to accomplish what nuclear experts call “covert breakout” — the ability to secretly produce a workable weapon.
“For now, the Iranians don’t have a credible breakout option, and we don’t think they will have one for at least 18 months, maybe two or three years,” said one senior administration official at the center of the White House Iran strategy. The administration has told allies that the longer time frame would allow the sanctions to have an effect before Iran could develop its nuclear ability. . . .
Iran’s insistence that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only is roundly rejected by Western officials and, in internal reports, by international nuclear inspectors. Yet Washington’s assessments of how much progress Iran has made toward a weapon have varied greatly over the past two years, partly a reflection of how little is known about the inner workings of the country’s nuclear programs. . . .
After reviewing new documents that have leaked out of Iran and debriefing defectors lured to the West, Mr. Obama’s advisers say they believe the work on weapons design is continuing on a smaller scale — the same assessment reached by Britain, France, Germany and Israel.
In early September, the American ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Glyn Davies, warned that Iran had “possible breakout capacity.” Administration officials say that Mr. Davies’ assessment was technically accurate, yet the new evidence suggests that Iran is less likely to use its uranium stockpile to assemble one or two bombs, a move officials say would be likely to provoke an Israeli strike.
The administration’s current view of Iran’s nuclear program was provided by six senior administration officials advising Mr. Obama on his strategy, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the subject. The administration’s review of Iran’s program, which they said was based on intelligence reports, information from allies, and their own analysis, did not amount to a new formal intelligence assessment.
In interviews, those officials as well as European officials engaged in the Iran issue and private experts described Iran’s nuclear program as being in some disarray.
The biggest disruption came in late September when Mr. Obama, along with President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain, publicly exposed Iran’s covert effort to build an enrichment plant near Qum.
Western intelligence agencies had been studying the underground plant from afar for nearly a year, and two European officials say that Iranian nuclear spies recruited by Europe and Israel provided some confirming evidence about the purpose of the plant. . . .
International inspectors who were granted access to the underground site in October found that the plant was about a year away from operation and that it was designed for just 3,000 centrifuges — not enough to produce the large amounts of fuel needed for commercial reactors, but sufficient for the stealthy production of highly enriched bomb fuel. (By comparison, the Natanz plant, which is ostensibly for producing reactor fuel, is designed for 54,000 centrifuges.) . . .
Both administration officials and experts say that another factor slowing Iran’s nuclear development is that it is working with older centrifuge technology that keeps breaking down.
By the recent count of inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency, there were 3,936 centrifuges running at Iran’s enrichment plant in the desert at Natanz — down from a peak of 4,920 centrifuges in June.
Administration officials say Iran began producing almost all of its own centrifuge components after discovering that the United States and other Western countries had sabotaged some key imported parts, and they have made a series of manufacturing errors.
R. Scott Kemp, a Princeton University physicist, said that another factor was in the basic design of the centrifuges, obtained from Pakistan nearly two decades ago. “I suspect design problems,” Mr. Kemp said. “The machines run hot and have short lives. They’re terrible. It’s a really bad design.”
If Mr. Kemp and others are right, it suggests that Iran has a long way to go before it can make good on its recent vow to open 10 new enrichment plants. Iranian officials have said publicly that those plants will use a new version of the centrifuges. But Paul K. Kerr, a nuclear analyst at the Congressional Research Service, said research on the new generation of centrifuges had apparently proved “less successful” than the original, primitive design.
Another possible problem for Iran is the Western sabotage efforts. In January, The New York Times reported that President Bush had ordered a broad covert program against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, including efforts to undermine electrical and computer systems that keep the nuclear program running. The Obama administration has been silent about the progress of that program, one of the most heavily classified of the United States government.
We may have some additional time, we may not. The only thing for sure is that the threat posed by Iran to the U.S., Israel and the world will not end until this most evil of regimes is removed from power. Obama's sole focus should be on supporting the nascent revolution in Iran in every way possible. Nothing I have seen yet suggests that he will do anything of the sort. A critical moment in history will pass unexploited, and we will pay for it dearly in the long run with blood and gold.