Thursday, May 14, 2009

Will Iran Get an American October Surprise?

There's an interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal that merits serious consideration. According to the article--which is obviously based on direct information from administration sources--the Obama administration intends to give Tehran until early October to show some responsiveness on slowing its nuclear program. The two specifics cited are: allowing snap inspections of its facilities and stopping uranium enrichment in exchange for no new sanctions.

As always, with an article like this there are several possibilities:

1. It's true and the Obama administration is showing some backbone on Iran.

2. It's true but intended to gain leverage against Iran--which doesn't back down easily especially because the regime believes no one is pushing it very hard--and will not be implemented with any serious policy change if Iran ignores the demand.

3. It's true but the Iranian regime will buy off the problem with very minor concessions and so basically continue to go full speed ahead in exchange for Western concessions.

4. It's true but the Iranian regime will just lie and change nothing at all. (See point 3, above.) While U.S. intelligence would probably uncover the falsehood (or the meaninglessness of minor changes under point 3), the Obama administration could accept the situation for two reasons. First, the president would look good ("See, my policy of engagement is working!"). Second, it would be a good face-saving way to avoid any confrontation.

5. It's not true...yet but those lobbying for such a plan within the administration are saying this to give them leverage in winning out.

6. It's not true but meant to assuage critics demanding more action.

The problem is that under five of those six options, Iran can still do whatever it wants. The reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June by a big margin (his opponents will split the opposition vote) will give the regime more confidence, as well as will six months with no big problems.

So the outlook is pretty grim though perhap a little less so. Still, clearly the Wall Street Journal article comes straight from the horse's mouth, well some of the herd any way, and so is an expression of something going on within the U.S. government.

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