Iran: Twitter Versus the Bomb

“In the last year, two things have happened,” Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last Monday. “Iran has advanced its military nuclear program, and Iran has lost its legitimacy in the eyes of the international community.”

The Iranian regime means business. The Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee was also told it has now enriched 1,800 kg of uranium – enough for one-and-a-half nuclear bombs. Yet despite serious and widespread concern over its nuclear ambitions, Tehran announced last month that it plans to build ten new sites for further uranium enrichment.

It was, of course, the re-election of Ahmadinejad – widely regarded as fraudulent – and the regime’s violent crackdown of pro-democracy demonstrators in June that cost it its remaining semblance of legitimacy, not the nuclear issue. This, and President Obama’s public and private overtures to Tehran over the last few months, have overshadowed the pro-democracy movement, but they are not separate from one another.

In June, as protests in Iran began to capture the American psyche Obama ruffled feathers by calling on the Huffington Post’s editor, Nico Pitney, to ask a question about Iran. (Pitney had been communicating with Iranian bloggers, but the event seemed to make the Huffington Post Obama’s semi-official news media.) By August the media outlet was calling for the US president to congratulate his Iranian counterpart, “in the interest of fairness to Ahmadinejad and his mass of Iranian supporters,” and, most of all, to aid diplomacy.

But diplomacy, in regard to the nuclear issue, depends upon Obama’s response to the pro-democracy movement. Despite his recent acknowledgment that “evil does exist in the world,” if the US president cannot make a stand on such a clear-cut issue of good versus evil, he simply cannot make a stand on any issue of security.

A national leader that wants to reach out to a regime even as the latter guns down its own people has nothing serious to say – and Obama’s speeches in response to crises have been nothing if not vague, and, frequently, absurdly lofty.

Last week national security adviser Jim Jones said that “the clock is ticking” on Iran, but that the US remains open to negotiations. Yet if the clock is ticking, Tehran clearly believes that it can be kept set to Tehran time.

The regime has offered to exchange enriched uranium for nuclear fuel, seemingly satisfying UN demands. Yet, flying in the face of the UN, Tehran has said that it would only hand over uranium in stages, meaning that it could potentially retain enough to make a bomb.

On the same day that Netanyahu spoke of Iran’s enrichment of uranium, Obama was pressing Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to play a part in resolving the nuclear crisis. Like Obama, Erdogan sees himself as a peacemaker, and promotes diplomacy – at least with fellow Islamists. When Israel launched its ground offensive against Hamas at the beginning of the year Erdogan announced his support for Hamas, and offered to mediate between the terrorist group and UN Security Council.

Yet, if Obama is prepared, if not desperate, to negotiate with… read more

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