WASHINGTON -- With a decision on Afghanistan, we will now see if a reluctant president can persuade a reluctant Congress and inspire a reluctant nation to accept additional wartime sacrifice. But the administration must feel relieved. The mere act of choosing releases accumulated tension like shooting a bow, wherever the arrow lands.
That relief, however, will be short-lived. Coinciding with the Afghan decision, Iran has entered a final stage of irrevocable choices about its nuclear program. It has backed out of a deal that would have sent most of its uranium stockpile abroad to be processed for peaceful purposes. Following a censure of Iran by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced the construction of 10 additional nuclear enrichment sites. Iran's parliament passed a resolution urging decreased cooperation with the IAEA. Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami preached a sermon at Tehran University pledging that Iran would produce its own high-grade uranium for "medical research."
This is a regime now in total defiance of international demands, moving toward breakout nuclear weapons capability.
So, have President Obama's diplomats failed? Were their honeyed words not sweet enough? Not really, because the current crisis has little to do with their skill, or lack of it. It is being caused by internal dynamics in Iran that seem immune to the rational offers and counteroffers of diplomacy.
In Iran, we are seeing the consolidation of a military dictatorship. Since the Iranian revolution of 1979, the nation's clerical leaders have had a military arm -- the Revolutionary Guard Corps -- that has acted as their ideological enforcers. It polices Tehran, organizes paramilitary forces, effectively runs Iranian elections, dominates large sectors of the economy, operates missile systems, directs Iran's international support for terrorism, controls Iran's chemical and biological weapons and would be in charge of an Iranian nuclear bomb. Ahmadinejad and many other leaders are former guard officers.