If you want to start a war with Iran, apparently the lesson from Iraq is not that war is a dumb idea; it’s that the war charge cannot be led by the U.S. administration or a ragtag band of expatriates.
The pretext for war needs to be presented by an international body that is perceived as independent and objective. So, if you want to start a war with Iran, who could present a more compelling justification for war than the International Atomic Energy Agency?
But can the U.S. government rely on the IAEA to fulfill its covertly designated role?
Now that the irritatingly independent Mohamed ElBaradei is out of the way, we know — thanks to Wikileaks — that Washington is much more comfortable with the agency’s new director general, Yukiya Amano, who is “solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.”
The Obama administration, as well as being able to rely on the IAEA to align itself with U.S. goals, can of course always rely on the New York Times to fulfill its role as an informal ministry of information. Just as Izvestia functioned as the “delivered message” of the Soviet government, reporters like David Sanger gladly parrot their administration sources rather than question what they are being told.
[T]he Obama administration, acutely aware of how what happened in Iraq undercut American credibility, is deliberately taking a back seat, eager to make the conclusions entirely the I.A.E.A.’s, even as it continues to press for more international sanctions against Iran. When the director of the agency, Yukia Amano, came to the White House 11 days ago to meet top officials of the National Security Council about the coming report, the administration declined to even confirm he had ever walked into the building.
The final touches are still being put on the report and its critical annex, where some of the investigative details will be laid out, which may be released as early as Wednesday. But already Russia and China have sent a diplomatic protest to Mr. Amano, urging him to not to make details of the evidence public.
“Russia and China are of the opinion that such kind of report will only drive Iran into a corner,” they wrote in the note, which was obtained by The New York Times and is a rare instance of those countries commenting jointly.
Obtained by the New York Times — but from who?
Knowing how a piece of information enters the public domain can be as important as the information itself. If these reporters gave some indication about where the note came from, they would thereby provide a clearer indication about whose agenda is being served by its revelation.
Sources do of course often need to be concealed and over at Arms Control Wonk, Jeffrey Lewis obliges “an observer” by allowing him to remain nameless. Regular readers of ACW will know, however, that this is a blog not only with stellar contributors but also a highly informed readership. This observer writes:
For some reason, everyone and his cousin are suddenly seized the idea that there must be an urgent need to (at a minimum) contemplate whether to bomb Iran. No one can quite say why now, though. As Ari Shavit writes in Ha’aretz, with an impressive combination of eloquence and lack of substance:
For the past decade it has been clear that we are facing an Iranian deadline. Time after time the deadline has been put off. But it is real and it is imminent. Unless an international miracle, or an interior-Iranian miracle takes place, we will reach the crossroads.
‘When we stand at the crossroads we will have two options – prevention or deterrence. To launch a military offensive or to emerge from nuclear ambiguity. One way or another, all chaos will break loose in the Middle East. One way or another, all chaos will break loose in Israel. What was will be no more. A new era will begin.’
But just what technical or political fact has brought the deadline to the crossroads?
Why, exactly, is there an insistence that Iran is racing up to some undefined sharply defined point where its adversaries, Israel included, must either strike preventively or accept an uneasy relationship of mutual (nuclear) deterrence? If Iran is racing, so were Achilles and the Tortoise. It’s more like tiptoeing.
Shavit is now the umpty-teenth commentator, Israeli or otherwise, who apparently cannot imagine that nuclear opacity or ambiguity could apply to states other than Israel.
The drumbeat for war against Iran suggests that not only do Iran’s enemies regard the Islamic state’s acquisition of nuclear weapons as intolerable, but Tehran must be punished simply for its lack of transparency.