Sunday, March 05, 2006

Cold Comfort?

Reuters Canada reports that the Bush administration is intending to set a 30- to 60-day deadline for Iran with respect to its ongoing uranium enrichment.

The United States, ahead of a key meeting on Iran on Monday, is discussing a 30 to 60-day deadline for Tehran to halt its nuclear program and cooperate with international inspectors or face intensified pressure in the UN Security Council, according to a U.S. official.

. . .

The United States wants the council -- which has enforcement powers -- to issue a statement insisting Iran cease its nuclear activities and then giving Tehran "a time period to respond -- say 30 to 60 days -- after which the council would consider what to do" about applying further pressure, said the U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

While part of me takes solace in the fact that the United States is at long last setting deadlines on Iran's recalcitrance, such maneuvers might ultimately go nowhere. Russia and China (the latter of which, by the way, likely supplied Iran with the bulk of its nuclear know-how) are not likely to change their previous positions with respect to issuing sanctions against Iran via the U.N. Security Council, since both nations have vested economic interests in Iran that they do not wish to see damaged. Second, as was learned with the Iraqi sanction regime, any sanctions that are ultimately imposed against Iran will be of limited efficacy if nations fail to take heed of the sanctions, or outright ignore them.

Perhaps most significantly, however, is the fact that any additional time that ticks by is time that may allow Iran to become a nuclear power. American intelligence estimates (for what they are worth) predict that Iran is years away from a nuclear weapon. Israeli intelligence, however, which has both a better track record and a stronger incentive to be correct, believes that Iran is less than a year away -- perhaps within only a few months of being able to produce, deploy, and detonate its own nuclear weapon.

Maybe I should be comforted by the American government's new preference for timelines. Maybe not. I think at this point that the only thing that would give me comfort is turning on the news in the near future and finding out that we started bombing.


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