Feb 27, 2006 10:46 am


It is generals, not diplomats, who are known to fight the last war. Yet, the united front facing Iran can only be understood as a conscious determination to avoid a repeat of the errors which led to the Iraq War. The United States has come to recognize the fragility of the coalition of the willing and the difficulties broad based foreign and domestic opposition pose in the post-war era. Europeans, Russians, Chinese and their anti-Iraq war allies have come to terms with America's determination to defend its vital interests with or without their help or support.

The fact that a nuclear Iran, not to mention one with Ahmadinejad's finger on the nuclear button, would be a global nightmare helped focus everybody's mind. That is the reason for the surprising unity exhibited not only in the IAEA boardroom but also in the manner everybody coalesced in support of the Russian proposal as a solution to the Iranian demand for a Uranium enrichment program.

The Chinese and the Russians may speak more softly but their underling message is just as tough. Tellingly, the Russian foreign minister noted that a nuclear Iran would border Russia. For as much as Putin and company may enjoy making the West fret, geographical realities cannot be ignored and the clock is ticking.

No, I do not mean only the March 6 IAEA board meeting as important as it may be. I mean the more ominous report that Iran is making significant progress and is currently operating a 10-centrifuge cascade for uranium enrichment. Different, but just as ominous in its own way, is the report that Professor Hasan Bolkhari, a cultural advisor to the Iranian education ministry gave a lecture on Iranian TV in which he argued that the Tom and Jerry cartoon is part of a"Jewish Conspiracy to Improve the Image of Mice, Because Jews Were Termed"Dirty Mice" in Europe." Add to the mix the growing ties between Iran and Hamas and the suspicious efforts to ignite a civil war in Iraq and you know you not only have trouble with Iran but real big trouble.

So, President Bush gives yet another speech reiterating that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable. The humiliated Europeans try to act macho but along with much of the Arab world and, most especially, the oil rich Gulf States they desperately hope that Bush will be Bush. That is the basis of the unity Jim Hoagland celebrates. It is also the reason that"Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Russian atomic energy agency Rosatom, and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Lu Guozeng arrived in Teheran for three days of talks over Iran’s nuclear impasse."

Unhappy with the consequences of pre-Iraq war diplomacy, everybody seems united in an effort to make sure they behave differently this time. Still, the question remains:"Will Ahmadinejad do what Saddam has failed to do and accept a compromise?" I fervently hope so. Amir Taheri believes that Iran has already crossed the Rubicon.

Update: Iran changes tune.

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