Thursday, April 9, 2009

Medvedev & Obama on Iran

The last time we looked at Obama’s attempts to diplomatically thwart Iran’s ambitions, it looked as though he was going to have to “crawl” to even be able to talk to a leader in Iran. But Obama didn’t crawl. He first attempted to speak directly to Iranian leadership, but when that failed he went to Russia. Russia, real or imagined, has seemed to be Iran’s chief protector, and Medvedev responded to Obama by saying the American intelligence may be better than the Russian’s on Iran’s nuclear progress.

That was an interesting thing for Medvedev to say – very “diplomatic.” It is a noncommittal factual sort of statement, but it also conveys something. For a Russian leader to say an American leader is right about anything seems a very positive thing. Also, Iran’s nuclear progress is in a sense a count-down toward a military option. Bush didn’t take it off the table and while I haven’t heard that Obama has, he is clearly intending to use diplomatic means for now. But will he use the military option if Iran plows ahead and develops nuclear weapons despite the best diplomatic efforts to get them stopped? In this article Clinton is quoted as saying that the Obama administration has not reconciled itself to the Iranian addition to the nuclear club and hinting at criticism of Bush for accepting India’s addition. Well, Hillary Clinton, if Iran does plow ahead despite the disapproval of Russia, America and everyone else, and you will not accept an addition to the nuclear club, the last resort to prevent this addition is the military option. Does anyone really have the stomach for that? The US may cave in as Ahmadinejad predicts, but one nation definitely has the stomach for a military strike. Its resolve was evidenced by their taking out, in an air strike, the French built Osirak nuclear weapons facility in Operation Opera on June 7, 1981. So even if Obama and Clinton change their minds (something diplomats sometimes do) and content themselves with the idea of Iranian nuclear weapons, that doesn’t mean that Israel will.

And just on the chance that Israel may be planning an Iranian version of Operation Opera, it behooves those bent upon a diplomatic solution to produce something tangible soon, i.e., to get Iran to back off and give up its plans (if it has them; which Putin recently denied, but Medvedev seems now to accept) to produce nuclear weapons. Obama thinks draconian sanctions might just do the trick. We are watching his efforts, many of us, with great interest.

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