American Elephants


A Slow-Motion Disaster Unfolding Before Our Eyes by The Elephant's Child

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Last Monday at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual Policy Conference, National Security Advisor Susan Rice spoke to the conference. The most important element of the post-World War II nuclear non-proliferation regime is the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968. Iran is a signatory to that treaty and has never pulled out.  As outlined in Rice’s speech, the actions of the Obama administration “obviate the NPT as a tool against future proliferation and fatally weakens the UN Security Council. In fact, the Obama administration is jettisoning the entire system by which we have prevented countries and non-state actors from building and obtaining nukes for almost half a century and virtually guaranteeing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East,” according to Jonathan Greenberg, a Senior Fellow at the Salomon Center.

 In 2002, the world discovered that Iran had secretly built – in violation of their treaty obligations under the NPT – nuclear facilities at Natanz and Arak. Since 2002, there have been six U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for Iran to cease uranium enrichment. In her speech Monday, Rice said that ending Iranian enrichment is an “unachievable ideal.” That the President’s National Security Advisor is willing to say, in public, that enforcing the NPT and six Security Council mandates is “unachievable” is astounding. The Security Council was designed to be the real seat of power at the UN – the only international body with any real teeth. It will now spend whatever existence it has left gumming pureed solids.

This is like watching a candidate for a Darwin Award gradually demonstrating why he became a candidate, in slow motion. It cannot end well. Rice repeated her boss’s usual blather about “we are keeping all options on the table to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.” This used to be, Mr. Greenberg says, “vaguely coded language for hawks who wanted an acknowledgement that the administration was willing to consider military action against Iranian nuclear targets.” Nobody believes them anymore. Shortly after vowing that all options are on the table, Rice suggested that a military option “would only set back Iran’s program” a little. We’ll consider military action but it won’t work;

You might think that new sanctions would work. No, says Rice. “sanctions never stopped Iran from advancing its program.” The 2007 National Intelligence Estimate concluded exactly the opposite. It was the sanctions that brought Iran to the table. Mr. Greenberg summarizes:

So, if we pull all those strings together, here’s what we get: even though we have the legal authority to stop them from enriching uranium, we can’t do that. We’ll consider bombing them, but only as seriously as you would consider something you’ve publicly conceded can’t work. And sanctions don’t work despite the fact that they work. Oh, and, incidentally, if talks fail, the preceding lemons are the only measures we’ve got as a fallback option so the talks kind of have to work.

“Any deal,” she said, “must increase the time it takes Iran to reach breakout capacity.” That’s a fine goal, except that the goal used to be to deny them the ability to achieve breakout at all. …“Any deal,” she continued, “must ensure frequent and intrusive inspections at Iran’s nuclear sites.” According to a UN report released yesterday, another from late-February, and a series of reports from the unfortunately acronymed Institute for Science and International Security, Iran is violating this requirement while sitting in negotiations.

It’s like watching a slow-motion disaster unfold on the screen. You know what is going to happen inevitably, but you are powerless to do anything about it.


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