Earlier this week Iranian officials issued their written response to Western demands for negotiations over the suspension of Iran’s nuclear program. Hours before the response was issued to to representatives of the countries involved, United States envoy Glyn Davies had asserted at a meeting of the governing board of the IAEA that Iran was on the threshold of obtaining nuclear weapons.
Among other things, Davies said: “Iran is now either very near or in possession already of sufficient low-enriched uranium to produce one nuclear weapon if the decision were made to further enrich it to weapons-grade.” It’s an extraordinarily conservative assessment, but gives ground for serious concern.
The Iranian response is a five-page statement that is a sharp stick in the eye of the six countries supposedly demanding serious negotiations in lieu of sanctions, including the United States. Taking a sentence at random we read, for example, on page 3: “The Islamic Republic of Iran voices its readiness to embark on comprehensive, all-encompassing and constructive negotiations, aiming at acquiring a clear framework for cooperative relationships by ensuring the adherence of all parties to collective commitments, a future free of injustice that promises welfare and progress free from double standards for nations of the region and the world.” Commenting on Iran’s statement, Michael Ledeen writes:
To say that it is unresponsive to the endless ultimata issuing forth from the “Five plus One” (meaning France, Britain, Germany, China, and Russia, plus the United States), and all the leaks promising “tough sanctions” if the Iranians didn’t actually take action to stop their nuclear program, would be a colossal understatement. It’s pure pablum, unworthy of a smart sixth-grader. Five and a half pages of cliches and slogans without any real content.
Ledeen’s comments are understated, but they are the least that can be said. One can infer from the statement that the mullahs have taken the measure of Obama et al. They decline even to provide a fig leaf for their rejection of the demands made upon them. The mullahs believe that the Western nations have no intention of lifting a finger to interrupt their acquisition of nuclear weapons.
The also mullahs believe that they have the upper hand. They understandably think they can turn the negotiations into a production advertising the humiliation of the West. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Iran’s lack of interest in addressing its nuclear program is not a reason to refuse to talk. “If we have talks, we will plan to bring up the nuclear issue,” he said. The Obama administration is seeking talks that would take place in December. (A transcript of the Crowley press briefing is here, video is here.)
Ledeen notes Crowley’s assurance that diplomats will “assess where [our] diplomatic approach stands.” Not to worry, Crowley says, “Iran’s willingness do deal with the nuclear issues in the proposed new talks will be part of that assessment.” Ledeen comments: “In simple English, President Obama, Secretary Clinton, along with Messrs. Holbrooke, Mitchell, and Ross, will suck their thumbs between now and the end of the year.” Once upon a time, according to Obama, Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons was “unacceptable.” It’s a long time gone.
Neville Chamberlain had more spine than Barack Obama. Chamberlain met with Hitler to negotiate over the issues that had brought England and France to the brink of war with Germany. He secured an agreement addressing those issues, wrongly believing the agreement would resolve them. The agreement itself was mistaken and dishonorable. There was no mitigation of the dishonor, but the mistake derived from Chamberlain’s sincere misreading of Hitler. In light of Crowley’s equivocations and evasions, we can see that no such mistake excuses our own waywardness.