On Point: Iran Plays for Time


by Austin Bay
May 18, 2010

Once again, the Obama administration's diplomaticmultilateralism has produced a time-buying victory for Iran in its unilateralpursuit of nuclear weapons. This means the world is measurably closer to theday Tehran obtains a deployable nuke.

Remember "smart diplomacy," Barack Obama's 2008campaign tout, the nifty sound-bite the lapdog media loved? The latestdiplomatic fracas surrounding Turkey and Brazil's negotiating initiative withIran certainly isn't "smart," unless you're a punster alluding to thesmarting pain of a hard rap on the wrist.

Nukes in the ayatollahs' arsenal, however, are more than aslap at President Obama's Ivy League ego. They are an intercontinentaldisaster, militarily, diplomatically and -- if you happen to be Israel, Iraq, aPersian Gulf emirate or Europe -- existentially.

Oh, a bevy of well-spoken toffs will deny that, but thesestriped-pants squeaks have a historical record. In 1938, Britain's NevilleChamberlain, a nattily dressed chap, brought a scrap of paper back from Munichthat promised "peace in our time." Adolf Hitler had assured Nevillepeace would reign after the West gave him Czechoslovakia.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, however, is assuring usof administration success. This Tuesday she told the Senate -- in a ratherChamberlainesque triumphal tone -- that in the aftermath of the slipperyTurkish-Brazilian agreement "Russia, China, the U.S., the U.K., France andGermany ... are proceeding to rally the international community on behalf of astrong (U.N.) sanctions resolution that will ... send an unmistakable messageabout what is expected from Iran."

Yeah. Rally on, international community. Unmistakable thistime. Harsh, effective, game-changing sanctions are at hand. All but at hand.Coming soon to Planet Earth ...

Is the would-be watershed agreement Clinton extolled aseamless, nuke-stopping embargo? That may depend on how you read the words ofChina's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. Yang said he found the Iranian nuclearmaterial swap arrangement negotiated by Turkey and Brazil to be encouraging.The Chinese diplomat backs Clinton's Senate certainty with murky tea leavesthat could signal China believes yet another diplomatic option exists for Iran.

Yang certainly gives China diplomatic options. Beijing wantsTurkey to curtail support for Turkic Uighur rebels in China's Xinjiangprovince. Turkey could read Clinton's Senate statement as a stinging rebuff ofits multilateral efforts, or as a sellout, since Turkish diplomats claim seniorU.S. officials (including Clinton) were in "constant contact" duringnegotiations with Iran. China thus positions itself to gain political advantagewith Turkey and Brazil at American expense.

Despite Clinton's rousing testimony, what we have isdiplomatic uncertainty if not chaos, and so time passes.

Uncertainty and chaos suit Tehran. For over a decade,Tehran's Khomeinist regime has pursued a policy of strategic delay, buying timeto acquire what it regards as a make-or-break strategic technological edge: nuclearweapons. Nukes forward the regime's long-term strategic goal -- establishingIran as an Islamic revolutionary power with global reach. Definitely grandiose,but the goal is a legacy of the Ayatollah Khomeini himself. The regime alsobelieves brandishing nuclear warheads will buck up domestic political supportby appealing to Iranian nationalism.

Since early 2009, the Obama administration has pursued apolicy of multilateral engagement, with the goal of building internationalsupport for rigorous economic and political sanctions. Obama-type internationalmultilateralism vis a vis Iran, however, has proved to be an unfocused amalgam of superficial processes.

Why? From the start, President Obama offered concessions,not focused leadership, in part because his own administration is riddled withmulticulturalists from the academic left who think American power and strong,forceful American leadership are the source of the world's most wickedproblems.

When Iranian dissidents began demonstrating in the wake ofthe fraudulent elections of June 2009, Obama had the opportunity to make timethe enemy of Tehran's ayatollahs. He failed, however, to support Iranianmodernizers and remains hesitant to use the truly powerful diplomatic tool ofpromoting democracy. Obama's preference for finger-wagging and strongly wordedmemos may command gray-haired profs with ponytails, but in the internationalarena his performance is kindergarten theatrics.

The Obama administration must change and provide realleadership by preparing for regime-ending military action, not just a nuclearprogram knockout. Until it does, the mullahs continue to play theseself-proclaimed smart diplomats for the dummies they are. 

To find out more about Austin Bay and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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