Just days after dropping “impossible” conditions onto their earlier offer to swap uranium with the West, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ordered Iranian nuclear teams to proceed with higher-level enrichment.  This not only comes as a slap in the face to the West, but also demonstrates that Iran has designs on its nuclear program other than clean energy:

Iran’s president on Sunday ordered his atomic agency to significantly enrich the country’s stockpile of uranium, angering Western nations who want to the Islamic republic to halt its nuclear program.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad maintained, however, that Iran was also still willing to follow a U.N. plan to export its uranium abroad for further enrichment. Refining uranium produces nuclear fuel for a power plant but if carried out far enough can create material for a weapon.

The mixed messages from Tehran have infuriated the U.S. and its European allies, who claim Iran is only stalling for time as it attempts to build a nuclear weapon. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates called for the international community to pressure Iran into abandoning its nuclear program.

German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said: “Today’s statement shows that farce is being played out just like we have seen in the past, that the outstretched hand of the international community has not only not been taken but pushed back.”

Maybe we should hear from the people who wrote that 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that claimed that Iran stopped work on nuclear weapons in 2003.   Aren’t we glad that we wasted more than two years by deliberately ignoring the threat Iran poses to the region and the world?

Ahmadinejad made this move because he knew he could.  The West has shown weakness and impotence in dealing with Iran for last several years, but especially over the last two, when that NIE signaled to Iran that the American intelligence community didn’t want to confront the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.  Hillary Clinton argued today that this weak approach paid dividends for the US in an interview aired earlier today:

Clinton defended the administration’s policy of diplomacy based on “mutual respect,” not just “hurling insults,” as building a foreign policy over the past year that has “created a much more open, receptive atmosphere.”

“Because we engaged, the rest of the world has begun to see Iran the way we see it,” Clinton said. Because Obama extended a hand, Clinton said, “a neighbor like China knows we’ll go the extra mile” and is thus more likely to join onto U.S. efforts to contain the budding nuclear states.

“I would say this has been a very successful year,” Clinton said in summing up the diplomatic efforts, noting the pressing of the reset button with Russia.

She claims the “reset”button — using the wrong word and transliterated in the wrong alphabet — was a success, but what have the Russians done?  They have blocked further sanctions against Iran, have done little to block Kim in North Korea, and have bullied us out of the missile-defense shield in eastern Europe while giving up nothing.  They’re still threatening Georgia, while the US has made clear that we’re not interested in making their cause a priority.

As for “the rest of the world” just beginning to see Iran they way we do, that’s a flat-out lie.  Our allies in Europe already knew what the Iranians were doing, the same leaders who were aghast at that 2007 NIE.  The Israelis, who will be the first target of the Iranian mullahcracy, certainly had no illusions about Ahmadinejad or Ali Khameini.  The notion that we needed to act like a doormat for the past twelve months as some sort of justification for protecting the interests of the US and our allies is a victimization fetish that will get people killed, a childish view of international relations that does nothing but make the US less able to avoid war before Iran launches its nukes.

The only people using “smart power” diplomacy are Vladimir Putin and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.