Iran made another step forwards towards its long held goal of obtaining nuclear weapons yesterday by restarting its uranium enrichment program.
While Iran’s long term strategic goal is quite possibly insane, it must be conceded from a Realpolitik perspective that Iran is playing a very strong hand, and their tactical moves are precise and well executed.
For Iran has played the Europeans charged with negotiating them out of their nuclear ambitions with finesse and skill. While some European figures, such as the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, have talked a good game about bringing Iran before the United Nations, others are taking measures to ensure talking is as far as it goes.
Thus, even as Iran announced plans to break the IAEA seals on the centrifuges of its Natanz uranium enrichment facility, Austrian Chancellor (and temporary president of the European Union) Wolfgang Schüssel warned that it would be premature to discuss sanctions. Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, added that “every effort must be made to convince the Iranians to return to the previous situation, to negotiations.” Mr. Solana’s idea of getting tough with the Iranians is apparently to beg them to show up for lunch.
Of course, the real negotiating tool is the United States Army, Navy, and Air Force. With American troops still in Iraq, Iran knows that it has to tread warily, but the cunning men in Tehran may well be counting that the US will not feel able to take decisive action before the 2008 Presidential elections change the political landscape in a possibly decisive way.
I personally am very pessimistic about these developments.