You know things are off kilter when the Wall Street Journal supports industrial strikes, including a general strike by workers and merchants, but in yesterday’s edition the paper did so, albeit in the context of Iran:
Oil workers, bus drivers and the bazaar guilds are mulling a general strike. … Ahmadinejad can’t seem to get traction for a second term. The so-called Green Revolution hardly looks to be over. Which raises a quandary: Why is Washington rushing to confer U.S. and international prestige on a regime that doesn’t enjoy legitimacy among its own people?
It’s true that the Green Wave in support of former Prime Minister Mousavi and his allies isn’t over. Today, in Tehran, tens of thousands of Mousavi supporters gathered to hear Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafansjani deliver the Friday prayer sermon at Tehran University, where they were once again met with violence by the security forces.
But, like its right-wing confreres and, sadly, many human rights activists, the Journal opposes President Obama’s insistent effort to deal with Iran diplomatically, including over its nuclear program. Yet Obama’s policy, reiterated this week by Secretary of State Clinton, isn’t about “rushing” to give legitimacy to Ahmadinejad. Rather than diplomatic isolation, more sanctions, military pressure, and war, Obama is offering to bring Iran into the community of nations. It’s precisely that strategy that invigorated the opposition in Iran, who saw Mousavi as a vehicle for ending Iran’s isolation and for dealing respectfully with the United States on the basis of mutual interests. During my visit to Iran in June, countless Iranians told me exactly that, from ordinary voters to Mousavi campaign officials. And by offering to talk to Iran — and by making important gestures, such as the release this week of five imprisoned Revolutionary Guard “diplomats” captured in northern Iraq two years ago — the United States is confusing the hardliners in Iran, who much prefer the bellicose bluster of George W. “Great Satan” Bush to Obama’s more unsettling approach.
The radical right in the West, and the neoconservatives, are still spreading alarmism about Iran’s nuclear program. The latest effort to do so was in Stern magazine in Germany, a notoriously unreliable publication which reported that Iran was on the brink of building a nuclear bomb, citing German intelligence:
Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency believes Iran is capable of producing and testing an atomic bomb within six months, much sooner than most analysts estimate, according to a report in the German weekly “Stern.”
The report, which quotes BND experts, says the agency has information supporting the view that Iran has mastered the enrichment technology necessary to make a bomb and has enough centrifuges to make weaponized uranium.
“If they wanted to, they could detonate an atomic bomb in half a year’s time,” the story quoted a BND expert as saying.
This, of course, is nonsense. Iran has not an ounce of highly enriched uranium (HEU), having stockpiled only a limited quantity of fuel-grade, low enriched uranium (LEU) . To build a bomb, Iran would have to refine all of its current stockpile of LEU to have enough HEU to build one (yes, one) bomb. Then they would have zero enriched uranium left, no bomb, and a vastly hostile world surrounding them. It isn’t known if Iran knows how to do any of this, and if they did, it would take place in the full view of the IAEA inspectors, who monitor Iran’s uranium stockpiles. It’s also doubtful that Iran’s scientists have mastered the process of exactly how to build a bomb. Anyway, the next day the German BND pooh-poohed the Stern report, reports Bloomberg:
Germany’s top spy agency said Iran could have an atomic bomb within four to six years, playing down a report in Stern magazine that the government in Tehran could detonate a nuclear device within six months.
The German prediction is in line with a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate issued in November 2007, a spokesman for Germany’s BND intelligence agency said today in a telephone interview.
There’s no reason to be alarmed about Iran’s nukes. The world has plenty of time to deal with that problem. (Even the Mossad now says that Iran won’t have a bomb until 2014 at the earliest, according to Haaretz.)
Obama, Clinton, and the G-8 have each said that talks with Iran ought to begin by September, when the United Nations begins its new session and the G-8 (or G-20) meets again. Perhaps they will. But the situation inside Iran is very fluid, and if things are still unsettled there in a few months time, Iran may be in no position to engage in serious talks. In the meantime, there’s no sense in setting ominous deadlines for the start of those talks — or, for that matter, for their successful conclusion, which could take many months or years. One thing is certain: Iran’s leaders have had their confidence badly shaken. They are no longer feared as the Shiite cowboys riding a wave of Shiite radicalism into the Middle East and the Arab world. Instead, the tide has turned. The wave is against them, and it’s bright green. Time is no longer on the side of the mullahs.