As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I'm Still Here? Amazing!

After spending all of yesterday in a heavily fortified bunker waiting for the obvious beginning of the apocalypse as predicted by such deep thinkers as Bernard Lewis and every warblogger with an agenda who got emailed that article by Bernard Lewis, I awoke this morning, took off my flak jacket, and slowly peered up into the outside world. Amazingly enough, it was still standing!

It was so puzzling, since the theory that the anniversary of the Miraj, Mohammed's night ride, would be a perfect moment for that ruthless madman Ahmadinejad, who doesn't control the armed forces in Iraq, by the way, to launch the final, momentous, earth-shattering attack with all that enriched uranium he's been developing (so far, enough to start up a pen light!). But nothing happened! How could the neocons and the warbloggers be so wrong?

Never mind, I answered my own question.

As for what ACTUALLY happened yesterday, Iran picked the symbolic date to respond to the EU/US/UN offer of incentives in exchange for stopping their nuclear program. They gave a serious, but in other ways unserious, reply:

Iran said Tuesday that it was prepared to enter “serious talks” over its nuclear program, even as it apparently refused to suspend enrichment of uranium by the end of August, the primary demand of the United Nations Security Council, according to a European official.

Iran’s call for resuming negotiations came as part of its response to a package of economic and political incentives that Europe and the United States offered to persuade Tehran to voluntarily suspend enrichment. When Iran failed to respond promptly to the offer, the Security Council passed a resolution demanding that it suspend enrichment by Aug. 31.

As European and American diplomats analyzed Iran’s proposal on Tuesday, it increasingly appeared that its efforts to push past the Aug. 31 deadline were received as a nonstarter and would likely lead to calls for imposing sanctions. The United States, Britain, France and Germany planned to hold a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the Iranian proposal and the prospect of drawing up a Security Council resolution to call for sanctions.

But the meeting will not include two key members of the Security Council, Russia and China. It is not clear how Beijing or Moscow have reacted to the proposal. Russians have told Iranian officials they are under considerable pressure from the West to hold firm on the demand that Tehran suspend enriching uranium, said political analysts here.

Basically, Iran didn't agree to suspend enrichment before the negotiations to suspend enrichment began. That really would give up all their leverage right from the outset. But obviously, this is a stalling tactic. And unfortunately, Russia and China appear to be buying into it:

Iran urged Europe on Wednesday to pay attention to what it called "positive" signals in its counterproposal to a nuclear incentives package aimed at persuading Tehran to roll back its nuclear program. Russia and China backed Iran's call for negotiations to end the standoff.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said "the door is still open" for negotiations but only if Iran suspends uranium enrichment first, a step Tehran appears reluctant to agree to [...]

"If Europeans pay proper attention to positive and clear signals included in Iran's response, the case will be solved through negotiation and without tension," the radio quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi as saying on Wednesday. He described Iran's response as a sign of his country's good will.

If the Iranians were to leave the door open to halting enrichment as talks progress, for example, that would drive a wedge between the Americans, British and French on one side and the Russians and Chinese on the other. Last month, Russia said the Security Council was in no rush to pressure Iran, striking a more conciliatory tone than the United States.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said it would continue to seek a negotiated solution. China appealed for dialogue, urging "constructive measures" by Iran and patience from the U.S. and its allies.

Nobody wants Iran to continue with its nuclear program, as they have failed to pass the honesty test on whether or not they're using it for civilian energy or weapons making. Time is most assuredly on the side of the West in this one, however. This is not an imminent crisis, but one that demands attention and full US engagement. It was amusing to see Reuel Marc Gerecht from the American Enterprise Institute look so out of place on ABC's This Week on Sunday, despite being in a roundtable with two other conservatives (Will and Zakaria). He stuck out like an extreme, maniacal sore thumb:

The subject was the fiasco of American strategy in the Middle East, however, and an elite consensus of outrage and despair on that subject is clearly beginning to emerge such that the ideological slant of the team didn't prevent the discussion from being, on the whole, fairly cogent and sober-minded. (Another way of putting this is that, particularly regarding Iraq, several of the panelists made the major analytical points that liberals have been expressing for a few years now, which can be taken as a real sign of progress given that it's apparently simply too much to expect that liberals themselves will ever regularly appear on such panels.)

I don't know if that's a factor of where elite opinion has gone or that a neocon endorsing striking Iran with bunker busters is such extreme, ridiculous, self-destructive folly that even the conservative response to that sounds rational.