No new diplomatic initiative.4:29 PM, Aug 5, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
David Ignatius writes in today's Washington Post on a briefing Obama and his advisers held for a small group of journalists:
President Obama put the issue of negotiating with Iran firmly back on the table Wednesday in an unusual White House session with journalists. His message was that even as U.N. sanctions squeeze Tehran, he is leaving open a "pathway" for a peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue.
"It is very important to put before the Iranians a clear set of steps that we would consider sufficient to show that they are not pursuing nuclear weapons," Obama said, adding: "They should know what they can say 'yes' to." As in the past, he left open the possibility that the United States would accept a deal that allows Iran to maintain its civilian nuclear program, so long as Iran provides "confidence-building measures" to verify that it is not building a bomb.
The renewed opening to Iran also included a proposal for talks on Afghanistan. Obama said he favored a "separate track" for discussion of this issue, in which the two sides have a "mutual interest" in fighting the Taliban. He urged that, as part of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's push for "reintegration" with the Taliban, Iran should be included in regional talks about stability. "Iran should be a part of that and could be a constructive partner," he said.
Robert Kagan came away from the meeting with a distinctly different impression. Kagan writes at the Washington Post:
Keeping the military threat credible.10:30 AM, Jul 12, 2010 • By GABRIEL SCHOENFELD
Here is Benjamin Netanyahu on Fox News with Chris Wallace:
when the president [of the United States] says that he's determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and that all options are on the table, I think that's the right statement of policy. ...the president's position that all options are on the table might actually have the only real effect on Iran...—if they think it's true.
The president has endorsed the treaty, but Senate Republicans aren't ready to ratify it. 6:00 PM, Jun 23, 2010 • By FRED BARNES
Ratification of the new nuclear arms treaty with the Russians may not be as easy as the White House, Senate Democrats, and the media appear to expect. The pact, called the New START agreement, faces early trouble in the Senate – serious trouble.
Lessons from history aid understanding of nuclear war scenarios -- and the outlook is grim. 6:25 PM, May 17, 2010 • By MICHAEL ANTON
The Telegraph (UK) published an astonishing bit of news over the weekend. Actually, it’s not quite “news,” as the story has been bouncing around for some years. But the Telegraph cites an article sanctioned by the highest authorities in Beijing, which gives the story a fresh imprimatur of credibility.
In 1969, when Sino-Soviet relations were at their worst, the Russians contemplated destroying Chinese nuclear sites with a first strike. They had the presence of mind to realize that letting nukes fly might have unintended consequences. So Moscow gingerly approached Washington with the news. The reaction was surprising. American officials told the Soviets that if they struck first, we would hit Russia with a nuclear strike of our own. Needless to say, nothing happened.
Unknown unknowns.9:42 PM, May 12, 2010 • By MICHAEL ANTON
In 1988, disgruntled former White House Chief of Staff Donald Regan revealed that since the 1981 attempt on President Ronald Reagan’s life, Nancy Reagan had consulted a San Francisco astrologer for advice on scheduling the president. This went well beyond merely affecting the start times of meetings. As anyone who has worked for or covered a White House knows, where the president goes, who he meets with, and when, are ultimately matters of policy. The revelation understandably caused a firestorm. How could anyone possibly base policy on something so frivolous?
The diplomatic gang that couldn’t shoot straight.May 17, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 33 • By MICHAEL ANTON
Watching foreign diplomats run circles around America’s striped pants set is always a depressing spectacle. In recent days we’ve been treated to some doozies—for instance, Iran being elected to the U.N.’s Commission on the Status of Women when our own (female) U.N. ambassador didn’t show up for the vote.
The price is high.10:27 AM, May 3, 2010 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
At National Review Online, Michael Anton has the definitive analysis of the costs of containing Iran. There is, of course, much debate concerning what to do about Iran and the regime's pursuit of nuclear weapons. The policy proposals most frequently debated by wonks are: (1) sanctions, (2) military strikes, (3) working with, or at least supporting, the Iranian people in their efforts to overthrow the regime, (4) containment, and (5) do nothing. These are not mutually exclusive options, of course, but each comes with its own primary tactic and should come with a rigorous cost-benefit analysis.
Iran rebukes Obama's nuclear overture.1:00 AM, Apr 27, 2010 • By MASEH ZARIF
President Obama noted at the beginning of April that the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR)—along with the recent nuclear security summit, next month’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference and the pursuit of additional UNSC sanctions—is part of a message that “the international community is serious about Iran facing consequences if it doesn’t change its behavior.” The updated NPR, among other things, limits the scenarios under which the U.S. would use nuclear weapons; violators of the NPT are viewed as exceptional cases and receive no immunity from U.S. nuclear strikes meant to deter conventional or chemical and biological attacks. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said: “if there is a message for Iran and North Korea [in the NPR], it is that if you're going to play by the rules, if you're going to join the international community, then we will undertake certain obligations to you, and that's covered in the NPR. But if you're not going to play by the rules, if you're going to be a proliferator, then all options are on the table in terms of how we deal with you.” It is unlikely that these messages—intended to “allow Iran to make a different kind of calculation,” according to President Obama—have thus far made the regime feel isolated or persuaded it to change its behavior, based on the responses and actions of the regime.
Can the CIA understand Iran?12:15 PM, Apr 20, 2010 • By GABRIEL SCHOENFELD
A leading Iranian cleric, reports Reuters, is blaming earthquakes on female promiscuity. "Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray and spread adultery in society which increases earthquakes," Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi told worshippers in Tehran.
This may sound wacky, but it can teach us a serious lesson. The question it poses is: How well do we understand the thinking of the Iranian leadership on questions small and large? Here are some words of a caution from a CIA study:
Estimates Iran will have long-range missiles as early as 2015. 11:28 AM, Apr 20, 2010 • By MICHAEL ANTON
Remember the two missiles defense sites—one in Poland, the other in the Czech Republic—that the Obama administration cancelled last fall as a goodwill gesture to Russia? The stated rationale at the time was: Since the sites were intended to defend America and our allies from Iranian missiles, and our intelligence estimated that the Iranians were a long way from fielding such missiles, the sites were unnecessary.
Now, this was a transparently flimsy excuse even at the time. If we believed (which we did then and do now) that Iran is determined to develop ICBMs, then why wait? It takes time to build interceptor and radar sites and make sure they work properly. Is the right time to begin only after the threatening country has in hand the capability which the installations are intended to counter?
How comforting. 1:10 PM, Apr 14, 2010 • By GABRIEL SCHOENFELD
"Iran is not expected to be capable of producing nuclear weapons for at least a year, maybe more, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Tuesday,” reports Reuters, covering him from aboard a U.S. military aircraft en route to South America:
Asked about reported comments that Iran might be able to join the nuclear club in months, Gates said: "I don't believe it."
"I think that most estimates that I've seen, haven't changed since the last time we talked about it, which is probably at least a year, and maybe more," Gates told reporters.
A year is not a long time. What are we doing in response?
In New York, Islamic states try to carve out an exception for killing Israeli and American civilians. In DC, they smile.11:32 AM, Apr 13, 2010 • By ANNE BAYEFSKY
At exactly the same time that President Obama’s anti-terrorism theatrics are going on in Washington at the nuclear security summit, a pro-terrorism party is going on in New York at UN Headquarters. The trouble is that the states play-acting in D.C. are swinging in New York in the opposite direction.
In Washington, the summit advertisement reads as follows: “Dedicated to nuclear security and the threat of nuclear terrorism.” In New York, the UN’s “ad-hoc committee on measures to eliminate international terrorism” is gathered to talk about drafting the world’s first comprehensive convention against terrorism. For the fourteenth time in ten years.
Kazakhstan and other repressive nations are given a podium. 3:15 PM, Apr 12, 2010 • By DANIEL HALPER
Kazakhstan's leader has given permission to the commander in chief to allow U.S. military planes to fly over his country en route to Afghanistan. This was the result of a meeting President Nursultan Nazarbayev held at the White House with President Barack Obama yesterday. That's one accomplishment -- perhaps the only accomplishment? -- of this Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C.
Keeping nukes out of Iranian hands, not signing treaties with Russia, is the real path to stopping nuclear terrorism.1:30 PM, Apr 12, 2010 • By JOHN NOONAN
Trying to prevent terrorists from obtaining nukes should be national security priority number one. But the Obama administration's plan to combat that threat is puzzling. They've argued ad nauseam that arms reduction treaties like START are the key to keeping loose nukes out of the hands of terrorists. That's absurd. START limits nuclear weapons on bombers, submarines, and ballistic missiles -- these bombs are large and restrained by failsafe mechanisms and unlock values which make them nearly impossible to detonate. In six decades of nuclear custody, there has never been a theft of such a device in either the United States or Russia (though a few have been lost, mostly in bomber crashes during the 50s and 60s).