The Daily Talking Points

News and views on U.S.-Iran relations for November 24, 2010:
  • The Washington Times: Ben Birnbaum reports that a leaked International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog, indicates that Iran’s nuclear program “experienced a one-day shutdown last week, indicating a slowing of Tehran’s nuclear progress.” Some analysts speculate the Stuxnet virus is behind this, which Iran denies. Patrick Clawson, director of the Iran Security Initiative at the hawkish Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), tells Birnbaum that the alleged delays in Iran’s nuclear program are partially due to economic pressure from sanctions: “The West is going to be able to say to them, ‘You haven’t gotten anywhere with your nuclear program in the last year, you’re paying a price for sanctions and — by the way — we’ll impose more sanctions if you don’t agree to this.'”
  • BBC: The BBC reports on The Gambia’s announcement that it is cutting diplomatic ties with Iran and ejecting all Iranian diplomats. Last month, Nigeria reported that it intercepted a shipment of arms (the container was labeled “building materials”) heading from Iran to The Gambia. Iran believes the severing of relations may be due to U.S. pressure, since The Gambia has supported Iran’s ability to have nuclear power. “Iran has sought partners around the world especially as sanctions have come on the table in the last few years,” the American Enterprise Institute‘s Charlie Zrom told the BBC. Expanding diplomatic and economic ties with West Africa is “a tool by which Iran tries to prevent measures harmful to it, or it believes harmful to it, being passed at the United Nations,” added Zrom.
  • Commentary: As noted in a LobeLog post yesterday, Max Boot blogged at Commentary‘s Contentions that “For those who advocate containment as the solution to the Iranian nuclear threat, it is worth noting how destabilizing a nuclear-armed rogue state can be and how hard it is to contain.” He writes: “Even now, North Korea could be planning to export nuclear know-how or uranium to Iran. If so, what are we going to do about it? My guess: not much.” Then he veers into a thinly veiled call for war with Iran: “That is an argument for stopping Iran by any means necessary before it crosses the nuclear threshold and becomes as dangerous as North Korea.”
  • The Enterprise Blog: At AEI‘s blog (and cross-posted at the think tank’s Center for Defense Studies), Thomas Donnelly writes in opposition to the New START treaty because “it does not prepare the United States for the new, and extremely volatile, nuclear realities just around the corner.” He writes that START will not prepare the U.S. for a “‘multi-polar’ nuclear world” that “will be marked by a rising number of otherwise weak states with modestly sized nuclear forces: think North Korea and Iran.” According to his analysis, these “regional rogues” have taken a lesson from the U.S. application of “relatively small but devastatingly effective applications of conventional military power” on Saddam Hussein: “to deter America, get a nuke.” He chalks up United States action in Iraq to dealing with Hussein’s “ambitions.” New Start or no New Start, Iran may well take away the Iraq War lesson that the U.S. is determined to attack — no matter what ambitions the Islamic Republic holds, and whether or not they take any steps towards realizing those ambitions.

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.