Sunday, November 29, 2009

Breaking News: Tehran OKs Ten Uranium Enrichment Facilities; U.S. Government Begs Iran to Negotiate

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By Barry Rubin

Iran's government announced a cabinet-level decision approving construction of ten new facilities to make enriched uranium, defying the United States and the UN. U.S. reaction so far? Please please talk with us . This is the moment for the president to make that "My fellow Americans..." getting tough and imposing high sanctions speech, showing leadership and urging Europe to follow him. Why is it one doubts that will happen?

This is not just another slap, it is a hitting over the head with a two by four. It’s getting pretty obvious that Iran doesn’t want to make nice no matter how hard the West and particularly President Barack Obama tries. There’s a broader lesson here: if you apologize, they take it as weakness. If you take too long to react, they use it as an opportunity to advance. If you make a concession they demand more. If you pass a resolution, they laugh in your face.

At some point in history, perhaps Western leaders, academics, and intellectuals will understand this. How about today?

After all, the Iranian regime has now approved a plan to build 10 new uranium enrichment facilities (start building five; start planning five more). Get it? You criticize us for building one, so our answer is to build 10. You criticize us for building one in secret, so we do it right before your eyes.

What are you going to do about it? Come and get me, copper! You don’t like it? Go drink the Nile. And a lot of other expressions which require words I don’t use but an example has two words, the first of which has four letters and the second of which is “you.”

It should be noted that this probably isn't going to happen. When the regime starts talking about 500,000 centrifuges that is a fantasy, so is the idea of building ten facilities. It's a largely--but not necessarily totally--demagogic response. Yet it also indicates the likelihood that Iran will build (is building? has already built?) more facilities.

Of course another motive is that if you build multiple facilities it is harder to bomb them and destroy your weapons’-building capability.

The key point is that we have now reached the definitive point where Iran is clearly going ahead with its project. The engagement era is--or, rather, should be--over.
But what is the American response to this and other such developments? Here it is, admittedly an interim position, from a senior U.S. official:

"If carried out, this [action] would constitute yet another violation of Iran's continuing obligation of suspension of all enrichment-related activities, including construction of new plants. There remains a fleeting opportunity for Iran to engage with the international community, if only it would make that choice,"

How about this from a senior official at Rubin Reports: “There remains a fleeting opportunity for the international community, following U.S. leadership, to stop Iran from changing the entire strategic balance in the Middle East and unleashing decades of bloody wars and revolutions, if only it would make that choice,"

Let's be generous. Up to this point it is somewhere between possible and likely that the Obama Administration didn't understand, due to its world view, what it was up against. This can no longer be true. From now on inaction must be attributed to fear of getting tough and facing a crisis.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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