In the Arena

Iran’s Silly Reaction

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Iran’s “decision” to build ten new nuclear processing plants is both risible and pathetic. This is a country that has most of the world united against its nuclear defiance–a situation that the regime seems to think it can use to bolster domestic support, as it used to do when it had more credibility–and is flailing about, searching for a strategy. The regime’s only hope is if people take its “plan” seriously and overreact, as the Wall Street Journal editorial board does today:

[Y]esterday the Iranian government ordered up 10 additional uranium enrichment plants on the scale of its already operational facility in Natanz, which has a planned capacity of 54,000 centrifuges. That could mean an eventual total of more than 500,000 centrifuges, or enough to enrich about 160 bombs worth of uranium each year. Whether it can ever do that is an open question, but it does give a sense of the scale of the regime’s ambitions.

No it doesn’t. It’s not even an open question:

Iran lacks (a) the uranium, (b) the capability and (c) the centrifuges for such an operation. Indeed, the Natanz facility, cited above, has only 5000 centrifuges, of its 54000 capacity, currently spinning. There are persistent reports that the uranium being enriched isn’t exactly pure, either–a consequence of Iranian ineptitude or western sabotage–and therefore unusable for bomb-making.

But that doesn’t stop the Journal’s warmongering computer-tappers from offering this bottom line:

And until the President, his advisers and the Europeans realize that only punitive sanctions or military strikes will force it to reconsider its nuclear ambitions, an emboldened Islamic Republic will continue to march confidently toward a bomb over the wreckage of Mohamed ElBaradei’s—and Barack Obama’s—best intentions.

An emboldened Islamic Republic? Nawww. How about a divided, isolated, economically fragile and seriously weakened Islamic Republic? But that doesn’t mean the west should ignore Iran’s defiance of the international non-proliferation system. I’m not sure what “punitive” sanctions are, but it does seem increasingly possible that the Obama Administration will be able to get some sort of economic sanctions approved by the UN Security Council, given Iran’s cooling relations with Russia, and even mercantilist China’s fears of Islamic radicalism and instability on its western border.

Furthermore, now that it seems apparent that Iran has taken this self-destructive path, it seems appropriate that the Obama Administration begin to step up its containment and deterrence plans–including, perhaps, increased cooperation with Israel in monitoring and stopping arms shipments from Iran to Hizballah.

Direct military action remains utterly foolish, a point reinforced privately by practically everyone associated with the U.S. military. Iran remains a second-level threat to the United States, not nearly the problem that shaky Pakistan represents. The best way to handle that threat is to proceed, quietly but steadily, with sanctions and deterrence–although some low-key, background chuckling by senior administration officials, at this latest nonsense from the Supreme Leader might also be in order.