Mahmoud Ahmadinejad put on a predictable show at the U.N. conference on Monday, claiming the U.S. is actively threatening the world with nuclear aggression. But circumstances surrounding that show have changed, and it’s not for the better.
Ahmadinejad has even less room to deny that his country was actively pursuing nuclear weapons, as opposed to nuclear energy. After the London Times broke the neutron initiator story last year, it became even undeniable to all but the most adamant pacifists.
Just yesterday, news broke that Ahmadinejad visited Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe on his way to the New York conference. It’s possible Ahmadinejad and Mugabe were simply chatting about their favorite methods of torturing dissidents. But Fox News reported that is was possible that Ahmadinejad was making a deal with Mugabe – Iran would give Zimbabwe oil in exchange for their precious uranium ore. You don’t use that stuff to clean your toilet.
The only question that remains, then, is what the U.S. is going to do now. When Ahmadinejad gave his speech at the the U.N. conference on Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave an admirable rebuttal. But her State Department just as hastily issued visas for Ahmadinejad and his posse to come back to the United States next week to engage in another meeting about nuclear proliferation.
“There are two schools of thought,” said Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “One that says because the UN is here in New York, we have to afford every head of state the opportunity to come... The other school of thought is: if Hitler came to the US before World War II, and we would have known what he was going to do, would we have ever let him leave?”
The Obama administration, as did administrations before it, is clearly going with the former strategy. But Obama is actually headlining his nuclear efforts at the U.N. conference next week, which means he is making a tacit endorsement of Ahmadinejad participation in nuclear negotiations while at the same time deciding on the best way to sanction him.
“Any strategy of engagement with this regime is bound to end in failure,” said Nile Gardiner, director of The Heritage Foundation's Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom. “We’ve seen this time and time again throughout history.”
Gardiner said he firmly believes the threat from Iran is imminent, and that the only acceptable way of dealing with it is by abandoning any efforts to play nice. Unfortunately, that is about the last thing the Obama administration is willing to consider. Iran knows this, and is using the information to its advantage.
“The Iranian president seems to be running rings around the Obama administration’s weak-kneed policy of engagement, and making a mockery of the white house,” said Gardiner. “It’s time for an end to the foolheardy appeasement of Tehran. And time for strong forceful and tough action against a barbaric genocidal regime.”
Just this week, the value of gasoline imports dropped at the mere prospect of any sanctions in Iran, which could theoretically be imposed next week at the conference. Traders simply refused to do business with Iran if they were going to suffer economic consequences from the U.N.
The Pentagon, in contrast, is taking a more pacifist approach. This week they disclosed statistics about the nature of America’s nuclear arsenal as a kind of good-will measure before the nuclear conference. Such statistics had been classified for years. This, according to Schanzer, gets to the root of the problem.
“How much longer do we want to be engaged in this war of words, disclosing nuclear arsenals?” said Schanzer. “When will we use sanctions, when will we threaten the use of force? These things need to happen soon if we are to maintain any credibility in this game of chicken that we’re playing.”