This admission does not leave Iran bereft of support. China with enormous and growing investment in Iran's oil fields (120 gigabucks over the next five years with more memoranda of understanding in the pipeline) is more than ready to fill the role of next best friend. Even when faced with a clear message that the Iranian program is seen as "existential" with the consequences for China that implies, the Gnomes of Beijing have been unwilling to go further than not oppose a stiffly worded UN resolution deploring the Iranian lack of transparency and cooperation.
Whoopee! That will sure teach them mad mullahs that the "international community" is as serious as a heart attack about them and their quest for the "Mahdi bomb." You bettcha, bucko.
Dr ElBaradei bemoaned the intransigence of the Iranian regime. Evidently he is filled with sorrow over the failure of the Iranians to take advantage of this "humanitarian" moment by accepting the deal his people brokered some weeks ago. The Geek has to agree. It is such a tragedy that all sorts of Iranians in need of medical isotopes produced in the elderly US built reactor may waste away in misery as soon as the fuel runs out next year.
Perhaps Dr ElBaradei and the Chinese alike should be more concerned over what will happen if Israel sees no options other than either the acceptance of a nuclear armed Iran or taking what military actions it can to delay or end the nuclear effort. The effects of an Israeli attack no matter how carefully designed and skillfully executed will be bad for Iranians generally. It won't be much better for the rest of us.
The time when push comes to shove is not far in the future. Dr ElBaradei seems to have realized this. Perhaps he now regrets his overly polite and delicate handling of the so obviously tergiversatious Iranian government over the past several years. Perhaps he now thinks (realizes?) that the delicacy, the sensitivity, were misplaced and counterproductive. Perhaps he now understands that the Iranian mullahs and their governmental frontmen were working from a vastly different calculus of rationality than was he.
We won't know unless the (almost) former Director General writes memoirs which are a monument to both candor and introspection. By the time that hypothetical happens it will be too late for the Iranians and the world.
The IAEA having failed and the UN sanction effort giving every indication of having done the same the question remains, "What is to be done?" In large measure the answer to this question will be found in one of two places: Washington or Jerusalem.
The Israelis will wait a bit before informing the world as to their answer to the key question. However, the "bit" will not be inordinately long. Particularly if the efforts by the US and others to halt the 800 million dollar deal between Iran and Russia for the latter's S-300 air defense missile system is bootless.
There are limits to the US capacity to influence or pressure Israel into agreement with American policy requirements. The limits are quite constricted where the continued existence of the Israeli state is concerned.
Yes, the Israelis have developed and continue to develop an impressive defensive capacity against missile and rocket attacks. This process has been assisted by heavy American cooperation. Nonetheless, the Israelis recognize the limits of purely defensive systems, a purely defensive doctrine, a purely defensive way of waging war.
When the stakes are high--and none are higher than national survival--the attractions of an active, a very active, defense become overwhelming. Even if the odds are not good as regards total success they are no doubt to be preferred to the odds of overwhelming failure if the enemy gets there "firstest with the mostest."
Few analysts believe that an Israeli attack would do more than retard the Iranian effort by more than a few years with the concomitant of solidifying support for the current regime in Tehran. Further costs would be imposed both on Israel and the rest of the world by the inevitable Iranian riposte.
In the short run the task of dealing with Iran resides with the current occupant of the Oval. That is the place where the questions of what is to be done must be answered first. It is sincerely to be regretted that the response cannot be limited to the area where Mr Obama has shown the most talent: making speeches.
Rhetoric is not relevant. Neither is a very long process of "strategic review." Given the record to date, the use of economic sanctions is not particularly efficacious. Admittedly, the reality of sanctions has never been employed. The sanctions to date have not been designed to really hurt Iran and the Iranians. Additionally, the sanctions have been repeatedly infringed if not down right violated in a wholesale way by China, Russia, and commercial enterprises in Germany, France, Italy, the UK, and elsewhere.
Even if the sanctions already in place were to be imposed in the real as opposed to the hypothetical world it is doubtful they would impair the Iranian will and capacity to pursue the Atomic Grail with success. The same can be said of enhanced sanctions such as those which would hit the Iranian deficiency in refined petroleum products.
Even the most effective sanctions take time to become potent tools influencing the decision making of the target government. The time might simply not exist now.
Because of its failing to exploit the shokku felt by the Tehran regime in 2003 and then frittering away the years following in a wasteland of improperly executed policy in Iraq, the administration of W. Bush set up the US for failure in the great nuclear game with Iran. The successor administration has done nothing substantial to rectify the situation.
Arguably, there is nothing the Obama administration can do at this late date. The Chinese have become far more intransigent, and far more potent in the years since 2003. The same is true with the Russians. Neither has any real world reason to go along with US policy requirements--even though the Kremlin for purely domestic reasons may do so, up to a point.
During the same years the US failings in both Iraq (regardless of later redemption following the surge of 2007) and Afghanistan have severely, perhaps fatally, undercut the will and capacity of the president to use or even consider the use of military force. The advent of the Great Recession did nothing to make the aftermath of a military attack on Iran's nuclear and related target constellation any less unattractive.
Then there is the minor factor of President Obama's personality and priorities. The man is opposed to the messy realities of war. He is post-modern and thus believes such bumper sticker sentiments as "We are all passengers on spaceship Earth." (As French president Nicholas Sarkozy was reputed to have said, "Beam up, Barack.") This orientation is why the president is all for the international campaign against the newest bogey "anthropogenic climate change," but balks at making tough decisions regarding Afghanistan or taking an unapologetic, realistic look at life in the Mideast.
Beyond that, the priorities of the present administration are highly focused on the domestic side of life. The problems in that department are manifold and quite time and energy consuming. The one time community organizer finds enough risk, enough thrills, enough reward at home.
All of this implies that the current administration has made the non-decision decision to learn to live with a nuclear armed Iran while hoping that somehow, someway, somebody, perhaps divine providence, will take a hand and bring the Iranians to accept the US perspective. Since the latter is a little less likely than evil space invaders arriving and so bringing about true global harmony, the former seems the new default position regardless of oratory to the contrary.
The further implication is that Israel will take action in the not overly distant future. That country has little realistic alternative given the totality of the circumstances. Most important, perhaps, in that critical context is the demonstrated inability of the US to deal with the ever growing Iranian threat with any degree of effectiveness.
It pains the Geek to have watched the US slowly degrade in its global influence over the past decade, particularly the past five years. While far from purity in its motives and ambitions, the US was the best or at least least malignant candidate for leadership in a unipolar world.
The Bush/Cheney administration was correct in its assessment five and more years ago that the US was (to update the statement of Secretary of State Olney over a century ago) "practically sovereign in the world." It is to the detriment of the US and many other countries and peoples that the Bush/Cheney administration also frittered away this unparalleled position in a combination of hubris, arrogance, and mis-fought (Afghanistan) or mis-begotten (Iraq) wars.
Bouncing between ideological extremes, We the People compounded the disaster of decline by replacing the overly muscular neocon ninnies with the "progressives" headed by a very nice young man from Chicago who was both post-modern and hopelessly naive in the true ways of the world. In not quite a year the Obama administration has shown precisely what its predecessor demonstrated in not much more time--ideology is the natural and fatal disease of effective foreign policy and military affairs.
As history has shown since written records first existed, the only sort of foreign policy, the only form of military strategy, the only variety of diplomacy which works is one which is coldly realistic as to national interest and national power in all its forms. An over subscription to ideology of whatsoever stripe prevents reality from intruding its ugly head. And, that assures failure.
In all probability it is way too late, but it would be for the good of all if the American president would heed his French counterpart's urging, "Beam up, Barack!"