The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Direct talks

If it weren’t such a serious subject, it would be comical to listen to Left-leaning foreign policy types who appear regularly in the media and attempt to convince us that we need to do a better job of “negotiating” or “talking” with the leadership of Iran. The idea, of course, is to provide “incentives” that would cause a cessation in their rush to develop nuclear weapons. Christopher Hitchens comments:
Now, does anyone—I mean anyone at all—imagine that the Iranian government's flirtation with "direct talks" is anything—anything at all—but a precisely similar attempt to run out the clock while the centrifuges spin and to buy (or, more accurately, to waste) time until sufficient fissile material is ready and the mask can be thrown off?

Estimates differ, but it seems quite plausible that Iran will be able to make some such announcement before the end of this year. That would mean that all international agreements, all negotiations with bodies like the European Union, all "inspections" by the International Atomic Energy Agency had been, in effect, farcical and void. It would mean being laughed at by the mullahs in the here and now. And it would involve, for the rest of the future, having to treat them with exaggerated politeness. What a wonderful world that would be.

So … what to do? The Obama administration will go through the charade of “direct talks,” satisfying those who are more interested in process and the appearance of “sitting down and reasoning together” rather than actual results. The Bush administration kicked the can down the road using a deeply flawed NIE as its excuse. But President Obama doesn’t have that luxury. What will his administration do when Iran nears its first weapon? My guess is nothing—hoping against hope that Christopher Hitchen’s prediction is accurate:
For decades, we have wondered what might happen when or if an apocalyptic weapon came into the hands of a messianic group or irrational regime. We are surely now quite close to finding out. I am not one of those who believe that the mullahs will immediately try to incinerate the Jewish state. This is for several reasons. First, the Iranian theocracy is fat and corrupt and runs a potentially wealthy country in such a way as to enrich only itself. A nuclear conflict with Israel would be—in a grimly literal sense—the very last thing that it would embark upon. Second, and even taking into account the officially messianic and jihadist rhetoric of the regime, it remains the case that a thermonuclear weapon detonated on the Zionist foe would also annihilate the Palestinians and destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque. (Even Saddam Hussein at his craziest recognized this fact, promising with uncharacteristic modesty only to "burn up half of Israel" with the weapons of mass destruction that he then boasted of possessing.)

Nor, I think, would the mullahs hand over their hard-won nuclear devices to a proxy party such as Hezbollah or seek to make a nuclear confrontation with the United States or Western Europe. What they almost certainly will do, however, is use the possession of nuclear weapons for some sort of nuclear blackmail against the neighboring gulf states, most of them Arab and Sunni rather than Persian and Shiite, but at least one of them (Bahrain) with a large Shiite population and a close geographical propinquity to Iran.

The problem, of course, is that no one really knows what the mad mullahs will do. One thing is certain—what they do won’t promote stability in the Middle East and will be an existential threat to Israel.