Wednesday, December 2, 2009

'Rethinking' on Iran: Tips for Obama

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The New York Post

President Obama has vowed "reassessment" by year's end of his bid to en gage Iran, but Tehran has already given its final answer to his plea to "unclench a fist." The Iranian Cabinet yesterday ordered the construction of 10 new uranium-enrichment sites -- an unmistakable sign of contempt not only for Obama's 10-month attempt to kiss and make up, but also for the emerging world consensus on Tehran's nuclear program. In other words, the regime's "no" means "No!" Nor should we think that Obama's efforts have paid off. Yes, the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-member board voted Friday to send Iran back to the doghouse over its latest refusal to live up to its agreements. But this is less progress than most news accounts suggested: Almost all IAEA board members voted with us -- but not because of Obama's magic. In the "isolationist" Bush years, Russia and China allowed similar UN Security Council censure of Iran at least three times. In the most apocalyptic scenario, the Iranian regime would use nuclear weapons to hasten the arrival of the hidden imam. At the least, an Iranian nuke would trigger a regional nuclear-arms race -- or see Tehran use the threat of atomic force to dominate the Middle East. Preventing all this requires a complete US policy overhaul. The administration needs to reverse its policies on four fronts. Start with the easiest:

IAEA / Security Council: To coax Iran to negotiate, Obama compromised the council's previously firm demand that Tehran suspend all uranium-enrichment activity. Now that the regime has rejected his offer, Obama must abandon his "fresh start" initiative: Publicly rescind his offer, restore the Security Council's original demand -- and then push the Security Council to affirm new demands, such as the IAEA board's call to shut down the nuclear plant near Qum. The council must also demand more vigorous inspections. Iran is likely to end all cooperation with the IAEA. But at least Mohamed ElBaradei's 12-year tenure as head of the Vienna-based agency ends today. He was Tehran's fiercest defender, offering an escape every time Iran was caught cheating on its commitments to not pursue nuclear weapons. With him gone, agency inspectors may finally be free to reveal every thing they have found in the past. Sanctions: Following Friday's IAEA vote, the Security Council is likely (probably by early next year) to modestly tighten the various economic restrictions that it has imposed on Iran. But Tehran has hardly paid attention to previous sanctions, and the new ones won't suffice either. The United States needs to go be yond the UN to isolate Iran economically. Allies will complain: A Tokyo diplomat told me recently that each time a Japanese company has withdrawn from Iran under Washington's pressure, a Chinese firm moved right in to replace it. Obama must pressure China (yes, he can) and explicitly announce to allies and adversaries alike: You can do business with Iran or with America -- but not with both. (Read more...)