Sunday, June 01, 2008

American credibility and Iran 

The New York Times is running an interesting article about the International Atomic Energy Agency's growing and public agitation over Iran's nuclear weapons development program. Now that the United States has -- seemingly -- decided to limit its confrontation with Iran to proxy wars in Iraq and Lebanon, the IAEA is left with the big responsibility of wringing its hands over the Iranian nuclear threat.

In the annals of role reversal, the switch by the United Nations’ atomic sleuths in Vienna and the American intelligence community has been striking. Having long taken a back seat to the Bush administration in publicly challenging Iran’s nuclear program, the global inspectors last week moved into the driver’s seat, demanding that Tehran come clean on any progress it has made toward building a bomb.

What gives?

Quite simply, and to some extent literally, the Americans have handed over the wheel on the confrontation with Iran.

After challenging Iran’s atomic efforts with everything from diplomatic crusades to shows of military force, the Americans backed off late last year, based on a new intelligence finding that Tehran had suspended work in late 2003 on the design of nuclear arms. Now, in the waning days of President Bush’s second term, it would be difficult — politically, diplomatically and militarily— for them to try to press for a new confrontation.

But early this year, Washington also turned over a trove of its own intelligence to the atomic investigators in Vienna, who put it together with clues gathered from many foreign capitals and findings from their own long years of inquiries.

On the basis of that combination of new and old evidence, over the last few months, the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency have come to worry that Iran — before suspending its work nearly five years ago — may have made real progress toward designing a deadly weapon.

The substance of the article is not new to readers of national security blogs (although not necessarily this one), but read the whole thing if you wonder about Iran's ability to build a bomb once it has enough fuel (remember that it is already been spinning centrifuges to make fuel for its "power" program, which fuel can also be used in a weapon).

Meantime, the Paper of Record could not resist this thigh-slapper:
That question could transform the debate over what to do about Iran, particularly because it is being posed now by an international agency that retains high credibility overseas, something the Bush administration lost long ago.

So, let me get this straight. The IAEA missed Iran's weapons development program for more than a decade, gets seriously interested only after the United States issues an intelligence assessment that says the program -- which Iran had always denied -- stopped in 2003, and it is the United States with the credibility problem? Factually true, perhaps, but that is only more proof that the world is turned upside down. The only organizations with "credibility" among the chattering classes and those influenced by them are those with sufficient international participation that they are powerless actually to do anything. No wonder nobody feels safe.


By Blogger Steve M. Galbraith, at Sun Jun 01, 10:23:00 AM:

The Bush Administration does indeed have little (okay, none) credibility world-wide. But as you point out, having missed the Iraqi program in the 1980s and 90s, the Khan network and, if now true, the Iranian efforts, who believes the IAEA is credible?

Apparently, international agencies or organizations are held to no standard whatsoever by the multilateralist fetishists.  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Sun Jun 01, 11:06:00 AM:

Meh, Bill Clinton already (ineptly) gave the Iranians the keys to the nuclear club back in 2000 by handing them the design for a Russian firing mechanism.

Google "Operation Merlin"  

By Blogger Gordon Smith, at Sun Jun 01, 11:17:00 AM:


What do you make of this?:

"Iran's parliament on Wednesday elected as its speaker former top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, a conservative heavyweight who has been critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jun 01, 01:28:00 PM:

Actually, if you read the IAEA report and compare it the NY Times article, you'd see that the NY Times is mischaracterizing it. It shows that Iran has been cooperating with the IAEA, and providing answers. The NY Times is not reliable.
Read more at http://www.iranaffairs.com  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jun 01, 05:16:00 PM:

dude mccain is trying to go to war with iran and obama wont. iran though is a horrible country or at least their leader is and even though hillary should have never said that we can obliterate iran she is right we can, but a politician should never say that in public. because now iran is going to the UN and complaining about what she said and getting sympothy from the weak UN. this could further them getting weapons.


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