Iranian mullahs not serious about ending nuclear proliferation? The deuce you say! Western leaders find themselves shocked, shocked that the Iranians now want an agreement already reached in principle reworked, in a move that would only surprise those who have been in a coma for the last ten years:
Iran will seek “important changes” in a U.N.-drafted plan to ship enriched uranium out of the country for processing, state TV reported on Tuesday, raising alarm bells among Western leaders who are pushing the deal in hopes of easing concerns over Iran’s nuclear program.
The TV report said Iran would agree to the “general framework” of the plan but also request unspecified changes. That suggests Tehran will accept the idea of sending the uranium abroad — something it had previously appeared reluctant to do — but that there could be a tussle with the U.S. and Europe over how it will be sent and how much.
France’s foreign minister expressed exasperation with Tehran, saying it is trying to have the proposal “thoroughly reworked.” Bernard Kouchner said he doesn’t think the plan needs dramatic changes and warned Iran, “It cannot take forever. We wait for answers.”
The plan was formalized by the United Nations last week after talks between Iran and the United States, Russia and France. It calls for Iran to ship 70 percent of its enriched uranium abroad for further enrichment. The U.S. and its allies back the deal because it would at least temporarily leave Iran’s uranium stockpiles too low to build a nuclear weapon. Iran denies any intention to develop a bomb.
Somewhere in Tehran, a conclave of mullahs are having a good laugh on the West. “Let’s see how many of them wave their little scraps of paper in the air,” one of them will say, while another suggests, “Perhaps we should have supplied them with umbrellas, too!”
This dodge has a long and utterly predictable dynamic in negotiations between totalitarian states and democracies hoping above all else to avoid confronting them. Make an agreement, then demand fundamental changes after the leaders have already declared it a victory for peace and understanding. That forces the leaders of democracies into further concessions to protect their standing at home and to keep the obvious failure of their approach from being seen all at once.
Unfortunately, most of us have seen how this story ends. While the Western states all chase their own tails to get Iran to agree to anything, Tehran will build its bombs and strike out at its enemies, starting with Israel, secure in the knowledge that their nuclear capability will keep them safe from any other attack. Until then, we’ll give these Western leaders a Captain Louis Renault Award, with a special Neville Chamberlain umbrella cluster: