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The Iranian Tipping Point Approaches

A rickety economy and nuclear progress make war more likely

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Quite the duo, Presidents Ahmadinejad and Chávez, earlier this week.(Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images)

This was likely the week that Iran began enriching uranium at a second facility, this one deep in a mountain bunker surrounded by anti-aircraft guns. It’s the week after Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial energy shipping lane. It’s the day after yet another Iranian scientist was assassinated in Tehran. What’s coming tomorrow?

The United States and Europe’s leading countries condemned the new enrichment at the U.N. Security Council, but Russian and Chinese vetoes will likely forestall another (fifth) round of sanctions. Beyond that, the Obama administration has been putting forth slightly mixed signals. Appearing on a Sunday morning talk show, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta took a hard line, with rhetoric to match: if Iran closes the Strait of Hormuz, “we will defeat that;” if they try to build a bomb, “they’re going to get stopped.” Yet, reflecting the most recent National Intelligence Estimate, he surmised that Iran has not yet started to develop an actual weapon. Meanwhile, a Washington Post article earlier this week created some confusion: a senior administration official was quoted as saying sanctions were intended to stoke public resentment and lead to regime change; then, this quote was changed to reflect the intention that the sanctions stoke public resentment merely in order that “the Iranian leaders realize they need to change their ways.”

The message from Iran is also mixed. The bluster likely masks panic. Closing the Strait of Hormuz would surely be the quickest way to halt Russian and Chinese protection, given the number it would do on world energy markets; it would be a pure desperation move, and so even threatening it can be seen as a desperation move, “Crazy Ivan”-style brinksmanship. The economic sanctions are slowly ruining Iran’s currency, financial system, and overall economy. In Venezuela this week, Presidents Ahmadinejad and Chávez joked, “That hill will open up and a big atomic bomb will come out.” Keep laughing, guys.

Domestically, President Obama does face some pressure to act, as the presidential campaign gears up and Republican candidates talk military action (Sens. Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman yesterday introduced a bill that would put the Senate on record as opposing “containment” of an Iranian nuclear bomb). Anne-Marie Slaughter suggests giving Turkey, which cut a fuel swap deal with Iran (in contravention of Western wishes) some time ago, another opportunity—limited negotiations are actually due to begin there anyway, although yesterday’s assassination may postpone them. Contributing editor Jeff Goldberg proposes that Obama make a show of giving Iran a “last chance” to seriously come to the table with the goal of coming into line with all international nuclear treaties (which it currently is violating). Such a threat should seem credible: accounts are that if it came down to choosing between a military strike and Iran’s crossing a U.S. red line in its nuclear weapons program, Obama would choose the military strike.

Iran Trumpets Nuclear Ability at a Second Location [NYT]
Iran Reports Killing of Scientist in ‘Terrorist’ Blast [NYT]
U.S., EU Slam Iran Nuclear Enrichment Activity at Security Council Meet [Haaretz]
Panetta: U.S. Will Not Allow Iran to Develop Nuclear Bomb [Haaretz]
Public Ire One Goal of Iran Sanctions, U.S. Official Says [WP]
Sanctions Begin Taking a Bigger Toll on Iran [LAT]
Slaughter: Saving Face and Peace in the Gulf [CNN]
To Avoid All-Out War Give Iran One Last Chance [Bloomberg View]
Ex-Adviser: Obama Ready to Strike to Stop Iran [Bloomberg/JPost]

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philip mann says:

Jules, these are boring clips. Not up to your usual standards.

RKGS-Royal Kingdom Greater Syria, gov't-in-exile says:

Good article showing photo of President Ahadinejad and Chavez. Statement ‘A rickety economy & nuclear progress make war more likely.’is true. As former Royal Kingdom of Greater Syria (short lived early 1890s version) we claim portion of Iran into and including first mountain range. The policy of the Kings grandson attempting to bring the kingdom back is peace & trade with Israel.

ROWDY BOOTS says:

Prediction:

Iran get bomb.

Israel gets bombed.

Europeans whine and cry and shake and moan.

Americans,who have DITHERED FOR MANY YEARS, GET THE PRIVILEGE OF SENDING 600,OOO TROOPS TO THEIR DEATHS TO SAVE THE WORLD.

AFTER MANY YEARS AND MANY DEATHS LATER, AMERICA WILL PAY FOR THE CLEANUP.

HAVE A NICE DAY.

Aren Haich says:

For the willing; the solution to Iran’s nuclear impasse is simple:
1- US and Russia create an international bank for Low Enriched Uranium (LEU).
2- Iran is allowed to produce as much LEU as it desires on the condition that it sells its stock of LEU in excess of one ton to the LEU-bank.
3- Iran is guaranteed unlimited purchase of LEU fuel-rods for its nuclear power stations and research reactors.
The above formula should satisfy both the West and Iran:
Iran will continue its pursuit of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes unhindered; and at no point in time will have enough LEU to enrich further to build a bomb

Cahotech says:

Look at the little rat with the big cheese. Same old story, go ahead, “Make our Day”! ; )

various US administrations have been giving the Islamic regime in Iran “last chances” for the past 33 years and each time they have, it has emboldened the regime even more. It is perhaps time for the West to realize that regime’s biggest fear is the Iranian people and should start helping the opposition groups. No, not the Mousavi types, they are no different and perhaps even more dangerous than Ahmadinejad and helpless considering that the Power lies with the IRGC. 95% or more of Iranians are pro West, but the West is too entrenched to change the course, even after mistake after mistake, it still continues to support the criminal regime that is its sworn enemy.

The recipe is rather simple, help Syrians overthrow Assad, help the Lebanon government and get rid of Hezbollah and watch the mullahs run for a rat hole! Unfortunately, president Obama does not have the experience and too naiive to take a bold action during the election year. Mullahs will have 4-5 bombs before he is out of the office 9if he loses) and will have even more if he is reelected.

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The Iranian Tipping Point Approaches

A rickety economy and nuclear progress make war more likely

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