In the Arena


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Remember how the neoconservatives indulged in free-range bleating after the National Intelligence Estimate was released on Iran’s nuclear bomb program last December? It was said that the report, which held that Iran had stopped work on its bomb-building program, would undercut the crucial economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations on Iran’s uranium enrichment scheme (yes, a rare moment when the neo acknowledged something valuable happening at the UN).

But yesterday the sanctions were extended, and toughened slightly, by the Security Council, including the Chinese and Russians, who might easily have vetoed them. Kudos to Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, who has worked the diplomacy patiently and well. And also to Mohammed El Baradei, who has been a force for sanity throughout–remember how he called out the Bush Administration on the yellowcake scam in 2003?

The key reason for extending the sanctions was new evidence that Iran had been working on a bomb prior to stopping the program in 2003:

Earlier on Monday in Vienna, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear monitor, said newly disclosed intelligence reports that Iran had secretly researched how to make nuclear weapons were of “serious concern” and would be pursued by his office.

The studies were described last Monday, in a briefing by Olli Heinonen, the agency’s senior inspector.

They included sketches and a video that appeared to have come from Iran’s own military laboratories, and Mr. Heinonen said they showed work “not consistent with any application other than the development of a nuclear weapon.”

In a thinly veiled criticism of Iran, Dr. ElBaradei said, “I urge Iran to be as active and cooperative as possible in working with the agency to clarify this matter of serious concern.”

Which should remind us of another key finding in the NIE: that Iran will respond to international pressure. The fact that the U.N. is willing to keep up that pressure is very good news for the forces of sanity in the world.

Update: Commenter Aaron gives credit where it’s due, to Kevin Drum, who saw this coming.

Another Update: Commenter Terrapinion asks:

Joe – I am under the impression that McCain, despite his embrace of the Neocon Project In Iraq, is no friend of the Neocons. Is this correct? Is there any sharing of advisors or campaign staffs? What type of employment can the Neocons expect to find in a McCain administration?

Reply: Tempted to say two words–Joe Lieberman–but it’s more complicated than that. McCain is independent, but he certainly tends to come down at the same place as the neocons on most issues, especially Iran (bomb-bomb-bomb) and he was a noted Chalabi sucker in the run-up to the war in Iraq, and for too long afterwards.