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Worrying about Iran

Robert Gates is in the news this morning via the New York Times story conveying the gist of his “highly classified” three-page memo on Iran’s nuclear program. According to Times sources with access to the memo, Secretary Gates has warned that the administration (the Times says “the United States”) does not have a policy for dealing with Iran’s imminent nuclear capability once diplomatic efforts are exhausted.
The Times article contributes to the annals of the administration’s empty talk about Iran’s nuclear program: “Pressed on the administration’s ambiguous phrases until now about how close the United States was willing to allow Iran’s program to proceed,” the Times notes, “a senior administration official described last week in somewhat clearer terms that there was a line Iran would not be permitted to cross.”
Where is the line? The anonymous senior administration official had more such tough talk. The official said that the United States would ensure that Iran would not “acquire a nuclear capability.”
Well, that’s a great relief to those of us who long ago concluded that President Obama has accepted Iran’s imminent acquisition of nuclear weapons, consistent with the administration’s discussion of containment of Iran. Prevention appears to have been thrown out the window some time ago.
Secretary Gates also called for rethinking the containment of Iran when it acquires nuclear capability: “the memorandum also calls for new thinking about how the United States might contain Iran’s power if it decided to produce a weapon, and how to deal with the possibility that fuel or weapons could be obtained by one of the terrorist groups Iran has supported, which officials said they considered to be a less-likely possibility.”
As always with stories like this, one wonders about the motives of the Times’s sources. Why would anonymous officials leak word of a highly classified memorandum suggesting that the administration has no policy beyond what has proved to be empty talk? These apparently well-informed officials must think that we have something to worry about.
PAUL adds: According to the Times, “one senior official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the memo, described the document as ‘a wake-up call’.” But to whom?
The Times suggests the wake-up call is directed to the president:

Some officials said [Gates'] memo should be viewed. . .as a warning to a relatively new president that the United States was not adequately prepared. He wrote the memo after Iran had let pass a 2009 deadline set by Mr. Obama to respond to his offers of diplomatic engagement.

President Obama, I’m confident, is aware that we have nothing the Defense Department would consider a policy for dealing with a nuclear Iran, nor is there any reason to believe he thinks we need one. In all likelihood, Obama is, and will be, content to accept the reality of a nuclear Iran, along with the shifts in the balance of power it entails. His policy will be to attempt to negotiate with Iran accordingly. For those of Obama’s persuasion, the policy is always the same no matter what the international problem — diplomacy, meaning talk backed up by nothing other the president’s imagined charm and powerful intellect.
Whether Secretary Gates hoped to “wake up” Obama, I do not know. But whatever Gates’ intentions, the memo is best viewed now as a wake-up call to America.

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