Politics & Policy

Tehran’s Game

Was there any doubt that the first talks with Iran would be deemed “constructive”? That’s naturally what President Obama called them in his statement yesterday. And inevitably Iran agreed to talk even more, perhaps — Iran’s foreign minister suggested — eventually in a “summit level” meeting between Obama and Iranian president Mahmound Ahmadinejad.

The big news out of the talks is that Iran agreed to rapid International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of its just-revealed enrichment facility at Qom and, in principle, to ship some of its existing low-enriched uranium to Russia. Although these items will be enough for the pressand for Iran’s international enablersto play up the positive results of the talks, neither of these moves is earth-shattering.

The Iranians are masters of making concessions that they take back or water down, so we’ll have to see how quickly and forthrightly they really accede to inspections at Qom. In any case, the facility reportedly isn’t yet operational, so its importance in itself should not be exaggerated. The exposure of the facility was noteworthy because it was a stark piece of evidence confirming what everyone had suspected all along: Iran has a series of secret facilities running parallel to its known activities. Unless Iran becomes completely transparent about all its nuclear-related work and welcomes thoroughgoing, spontaneous inspections, Qom is beside the point.

As for agreeing to send low-enriched uranium to Russia and France, where it will be further enriched to a level sufficient for medical research and returned to Iran, this is “confidence-building step,” in Obama’s words, to nowhere. The Iranians get the uranium back, and it’s impossible to know how much of Iran’s total uranium stock the portion slated for export represents. As we speak, the Iranians are still enriching at Natanz. Yesterday, Obama appeared to soft-pedal the demandbacked up by three U.N. resolutions — that the Iranians suspend enrichment, mentioning it in his remarks only obliquely. He did not utter the word “sanctions.”

The game for Iran here is a relatively easy one — string things along so talks continue and stiffer sanctions are forestalled. For Tehran, any meeting that leads to other meetings without its being forced to decide between its nuclear program and crippling sanctions or other coercive measures is a victory. Obama said yesterday that “our patience is not unlimited.” He’ll have to prove it.

Most Popular

White House

Trump’s Disgraceful Endgame

President Trump said the other day that he’d leave office if he loses the vote of the Electoral College on December 14. This is not the kind of assurance presidents of the United States typically need to make, but it was noteworthy given Trump’s disgraceful conduct since losing his bid for reelection to ... Read More
White House

Trump’s Disgraceful Endgame

President Trump said the other day that he’d leave office if he loses the vote of the Electoral College on December 14. This is not the kind of assurance presidents of the United States typically need to make, but it was noteworthy given Trump’s disgraceful conduct since losing his bid for reelection to ... Read More
World

China’s Pandemic Deception

You’ve made it to December in our annus horribilis. On the menu today: sorting through CNN’s fascinating but not completely illuminating bombshell involving leaked documents from the Hubei, China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, filling in some details about the early days of the pandemic. More ... Read More
World

China’s Pandemic Deception

You’ve made it to December in our annus horribilis. On the menu today: sorting through CNN’s fascinating but not completely illuminating bombshell involving leaked documents from the Hubei, China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, filling in some details about the early days of the pandemic. More ... Read More
Culture

Our Real Systemic Problem

America’s got a problem that’s systemic in nature. This problem has less to do with individual intentions than the structure within which our intentions are formed. That structure explains a great deal about observed disparities in wealth, and other advantages, between various racial and ethnic groups. It ... Read More
Culture

Our Real Systemic Problem

America’s got a problem that’s systemic in nature. This problem has less to do with individual intentions than the structure within which our intentions are formed. That structure explains a great deal about observed disparities in wealth, and other advantages, between various racial and ethnic groups. It ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Cinderella Man 2

Welcome to “The Tuesday,” a weekly newsletter about politics, language, culture, and, this week, film criticism. To subscribe to “The Tuesday” and receive it in your inbox as God and John Wayne intended, please follow this link. The Mona Lisa of Hillbilly Literature The Ron Howard film Hillbilly Elegy, ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Cinderella Man 2

Welcome to “The Tuesday,” a weekly newsletter about politics, language, culture, and, this week, film criticism. To subscribe to “The Tuesday” and receive it in your inbox as God and John Wayne intended, please follow this link. The Mona Lisa of Hillbilly Literature The Ron Howard film Hillbilly Elegy, ... Read More