The past week offered numerous opportunities for neoconservatives and their hawkish allies to defend the Bush foreign policy and push for a continuation of the adventurist foreign policy pursued since 9/11. As always, Iran tops the list as the next Middle Eastern country ripe for U.S. military induced “regime change.”
The Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Mark Dubowitz claimed sanctions have failed because they didn’t provide “material support for the millions of Iranian dissidents who could overthrow the regime,” something the sanctions architects have never claimed to accomplish. Mitt Romney misrepresented Obama’s implementation of Iran sanctions and claimed the U.S. wasn’t communicating a “credible military threat.” Dick Cheney expressed his support for military action against Iran and neoconservative pundit Lee Smith opined that Israel is dissapointed in the U.S. as an ally because Obama hasn’t ordered a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.
But buried under all the hawkish rhetoric are a series of interesting news accounts with implications for Washington’s Iran watchers.
- Ali Vaez and Charles Ferguson wrote in The Atlantic that the September IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program has been falsely interpreted by both Iran’s boasting and Washington’s hardline rhetoric. Instead, they argue, the report shows that Iran is still having serious difficulty in operating their centrifuges and the pace of uranium enrichment hasn’t increased since May. They observe, “Five years after Ahmadinejad promised to deploy a new generation of indigenous centrifuges, Iran has yet to set up a complete cascade of the new devices.”
- A day after Ahmadinejad announced the release of the two U.S. hikers, Iran’s judiciary sent out a very different message saying that it was still examining the pleas by the hikers’ lawyers. Ariel Zirulnick at the Christian Science Monitor examined this series of events and concludes the move was a “clear jab” at Ahmadinejad and the Iranian president is facing unprecedented domestic political opposition.
- Yesterday, the Associated Press ran an exclusive report on a new Iranian offer to meet with world powers without the the usual set of preconditions. Interestingly, and contrary to previous offers to negotiate, the letter authored by Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili suggested that Tehran might be ready to discuss some nuclear issues which were previously off the table. While Iran has yet to act, Jalili writes that Iran is “ready to cooperate in … nonproliferation and peaceful nuclear cooperation.”
None of these reports alone should serve as indication that a major breakthrough is imminent in bringing Iran back in line with the Non-Proliferation Treaty. But the events of the past week suggest interesting movement on a number of important fronts in the Obama administration’s efforts to apply pressure to Ahmadinejad and Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.
While Cheney and Romney’s saber rattling got played on Fox News, progress in the right direction might be occurring in incremental steps and under the mainstream media’s radar.