That’s National Review‘s argument on Secretary of State Rice’s deal on the Iranian nuclear program. We’ll sit down for talks if Iran agrees to halt their reprocessing of nuclear fuel in a verifiable way.
I’m with NR on this one:
Instead, the U.S. overture to Iran has given the Security Council the cover it needed to flinch. Further negotiations would postpone indefinitely the enactment of targeted sanctions against the regime, a tactic that the Bush administration had recently discussed with its allies. They would reinforce the mullahsâ€™ perception that the West, for all its bluster, is unwilling to do anything but talk. And they would distract attention from the only question that mattersâ€”Will the mullahs renounce forever their nuclear aims?â€”to the intermediate question of whether uranium is currently being enriched and reprocessed. If Iranâ€™s rulers accept our conditions and temporarily suspend those activities, they do so knowing that the Security Council referral was a bluff, leading as it did to more talks. Why will they be more willing to make concessions nowâ€”particularly when the U.S. offer was coupled with no statement, from either Europe or the U.S., on the inevitability of punitive action should the talks fail?
The Iranians don’t lose anything no matter what – if they take the deal they get a reprieve and could probably continue manifacturing centrifuges or reprocessing uranium while the hapless and ineffective IAEA was sent on a wild goose chase. If they don’t, they know that the chances of the US having the guts to do anything about it is relatively low.
To put it bluntly, the madmen of Tehran have us by the short and curlies, and they know it.
On the other hand, we don’t have many options vis-à-vis Tehran. A military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities may not be effective even with our impressive array of ground-penetrating munitions, and could invite a major regional conflagration. Letting Iran get the bomb ensures that a man regime possesses some of the most devastating weapons known to man. While negotiation is quite likely to be futile, Tehran knows that the international community is utterly feckless and their chances of ending up like their former neighbor to the west is slim. All Ahmadinejad has to do is delay for a few months while Iranian nuclear scientists inch their way closer to a bomb.
At the very least, we have made an effort in good faith to find a diplomatic solution to this problem. If military action becomes necessary, no one will care except perhaps our allies who need the diplomatic cover. Eventually, something will need to be done to prevent Ahmadinejad from getting his hands on nuclear arms – all that this move will do is perhaps delay that point for a short period of time.