IRAN'S GAME. ...

IRAN'S GAME. It was nice to see Charlie Rangel and Nancy Pelosi attack Hugo Chavez's ham-handed attempts to condemn President Bush. Chavez is a clumsy, crude political actor, and his extended comparison of Bush and the devil looked over-the-top and foolish. More interesting, and more relevant for American interests, is the current charm offensive of Ahmadinejad. From this Time piece, you could easily get the impression that Iranian leader had just finished Lakoff. Every other sentence was an appeal to approach the world with logic, love, respect, and humanitarianism. His basic argument was that George Bush is a wacked-out aggressor who, for inexplicable reasons of his own, seeks to dominate Iran and keep them from nuclear technology. Meanwhile, Iran has previously called for total disarmament of all nuclear weapons, and wouldn't want a nuke even if they could get one. "We are opposed to nuclear weapons." He said. "We think it has been developed just to kill human beings."

So the line is that Iran just wants the fuel cycle for energy purposes and regional prestige. This strikes at the heart of the problem with Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The NPT, in Article IV, encourages the spread of nuclear technology. The rest, however, argues against nuclear weaponry. The trouble is, once you have the technology the NPT allows, you're hours or days away from an actual bomb. The inspections regime imposed by the NPT effectively delays that, but a country that had the peaceful technology could withdraw from the treaty and rapidly turn around a weapon. So even if Iran achieved the fuel cycle and didn't create a bomb, they would effectively possess the capacity to turn one out in a matter of moments. It's tricky stuff, and it'll remain so as Bush's staggering lack of credibility at the United Nations and goodwill effectively softens other nations up for Ahmadinejad's apparently peaceful appeal. That blunts the international community's willingness to refer to the Security Council and the Security Council's willingness to act strongly and unanimously. It's fun to beat up on a clown like Chavez, but Iran is seriously outplaying us on the international stage.

--Ezra Klein

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