Definition of insanity, revisited

The definition of insanity, as the aphorism instructs, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. That accurately describes the world’s policy towards Iranian nuclear proliferation, and we’re about to get another demonstration of it. The BBC reports that major world powers will offer Tehran another set of incentives to stop enriching uranium:

Major world powers are to offer Iran updated incentives to stop enriching uranium and end fears it is seeking a nuclear arsenal.

The agreement on a new package was announced by UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband after talks between foreign ministers in London. He said no details would be made public before the offer was made to Tehran.

Iran, which says it is seeking civilian nuclear energy, is under UN sanctions for continuing to enrich uranium.

Friday’s deal was agreed by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, Russia, China, the UK and France – plus Germany. All were represented by their foreign ministers except for China, which sent a deputy minister.

In case no one noticed, this is the same set of major world powers that tried buying off Iran multiple times over the last six years, to no effect. It includes all of the EU-3, all three of which have changed heads of state since the last offer, plus the US, which explicitly participated in the last two incentive package offers.

Russia and China have joined the other four nations in the incentives, but both nations trade with Iran already, despite pressure to embargo Tehran over their nuclear intransigence. Their participation in this offer might be marginally interesting in that it implies that both will join with the rest of the UNSC if Tehran rejects it. Given the long history of both nations in supporting Iran, that seems very unlikely. They probably see this as a way to mollify the West for a few more months, just as with earlier efforts.

At this point, the Iranians have no reason to agree to a package. They have seen the incentives grow with each rejection. Why not wait to see what another rejection might bring them? Appeasement can be lucrative for the irrational, and it makes the appeasers look like the insane.