Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Process vs. Method
The GAO basically confirmed what I'd suggested last night. The impact of unilateral American sanctions against Iran is questionable at best. Meanwhile Iran has racked up $20 billion in energy contracts with foreign firms since 2003. You do the math.
The reason Iran is maintaining such an intransigent posture on uranium enrichment is that they're convinced they can get away with it. And that's a direct consequence of the Iran NIE report. Take that report away and Tehran's recurring delay tactics with the IAEA, combined with its confrontational negotiating stance with the EU, would almost certainly have provoked a third round of UN sanctions, and perhaps even meaningful ones at that.
There's a lot of good to be said about the Iran NIE, not least of which being that it was an accurate reflection of the US intelligence community's thinking on Iran's nuclear program, as opposed to a cooked up report meant to support an already decided upon policy. That does not necessarily make it the truth, but it is a victory of process over cynicism.
But as recent comments by President Bush made clear, it's done nothing to change the Bush administration's opinion of the Iranian nuclear program, and had only a minor impact on the tone of American rhetoric. By torpedoeing any hopes for further UN sanctions, it's also made it more likely that one or both of the worst case scenarios (as Nicolas Sarkozy put it, an Iranian bomb or the bombardment of Iran) will wind up occurring.
Process is good. But sometimes a bit of method helps, too.