(Bushehr Nuclear Reactor facility)
Over the last two years, Iran has played a shrewd diplomatic hand. It has negotiated with the Europeans and continued to do business deals with China and Russia. It has not done as much harm as it might have done inside Iraq, or even as a key sponsor of Hezbollah and Hamas.
While it’s not comfortable for critics of Iran to hear this, Iran could have been a far worse actor on the international stage than it has been. There are real limits to this logic, but the key question is whether Iran’s behavior can be steered away from being an international trouble-maker bent on exclusive domination of the Middle East, or whether Iran, America, and other key players are going to be drawn into what could evolve into a world war that alters the geopolitical terrain permanently.
Iran is now competing with George Bush as a champion of counter-productive, idiotic moves that undermine any international acceptance and legitimacy of its position.
Iran is now calling for the removal of the UN’s top Iran-focused nuclear inspector, Chris Charlier, and has banned 38 other UN inspectors from entering the country.
What should America’s next move be?
George Bush and Condi Rice need to embrace a diplomatic offensive now — and get on a plane to Moscow and Beijing. Bring Russia and China into this and make them stakeholders in this game. They can’t tolerate what Iran is doing — but currently are free-riding on America being the chief interlocutor (without even having real negotiations).
Iran has made a key mistake here — but only if smart strategists here in Washington and around the world quickly rally around this and demonstrate to Iran that the price to be paid for flipping off the United Nations weapons inspectors — winners of the Nobel Peace Prize — is not economic sanctions or a fleet of B-2 bombers, but serious brow-beating, scolding, and humiliation at the highest levels from players like Hu Jintao and Vladimir Putin.
That would be the smart move.
— Steve Clemons