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Thursday, January 24

Washington unveils the Jackson Pollock school of foreign policy

(Overheard at MOMA)

"Mabel, look at this one! I can't figure out what he wants us to feel."

[After staring at it for two minutes] "Maybe he was just drunk, Henry."

"No, I think he was back on the wagon by that period. Besides, even if they're drunk we're supposed to understand. Read me what the guide book has to say about it."
A recent American intelligence report, concluding that Iran stopped a nuclear weapons development program in 2003, appears to have actually opened the door to additional international economic measures against Tehran.

December's National Intelligence Estimate, or NIE, initially confused US allies, who saw the report as undercutting multilateral efforts to pressure Iran. But this week's agreement on the terms of a new resolution suggests that the NIE also deflated widespread concerns that the United States was heading toward unilateral military action against Iran's nuclear sites.

With concerns waning that the US would use additional UN measures as a pretext for such action, some diplomats say, the path to a new resolution was cleared.

The five members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany, reached the agreement Tuesday at a meeting in Berlin of foreign ministers that included Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The new resolution is not expected to significantly toughen economic sanctions already approved in the first two resolutions.

The resolution is considerably weaker than what the US and allies, including France and Britain, had sought in recent months. But some ambitious monitoring by international powers would actually be new and could build up the kind of pressure that Iran has shown it does not like, some experts say.

Michael Jacobson, an expert in counterterrorism and intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says that although the new resolution does not appear to include the kind of monitoring measures that would be most effective, he still believes stepped-up monitoring of the sanctions already approved against Iran would serve a useful purpose. [...]

The reinvigorated drive for a third resolution comes amid confusion caused by a report from the Government Accountability Office that says 20 years of US sanctions against Iran have been largely useless.(1)
[Stepping back several paces] Come over here, Mabel. When you look at it from here, it looks like Bush told his intelligence chiefs, 'Bring me a NIE that dials it back so we can dial it forward.'

[Stepping back] "I don't see that at all, Henry. It looks to me like Thomas Fingar is running interference for the Chinese again."

[Tilting his head to the right] "I don't feel that. Maybe State was running interference for the EU3? Downplaying the threat of war so the EU3 could talk Russia and China into coming on board a new resolution? Remember Gordon Brown's economic glad handing in China the other day."

"Come around over here, George, and look at it from this angle. Notice the earlier sanctions weren't doing any good. So maybe we're supposed to feel confusion and desperation. Wait, here's more from the guidebook:
Some experts strongly disagree ... saying more recent sanctions that have specifically targeted Iranian institutions and individuals have had an impact on the country's actions.

In any case, Jacobson says a third resolution would be useful as a signal to Iran of continuing international vigilance and unity. "It still sends a symbolic message to Iran, particularly with Russia and China joining in. And it's better than the alternative," he adds, "that Iran sees the Security Council is paralyzed and unable to move forward."
[Squinting] Do you think it could just mean Bush is playing a game of gotcha with the mullahs?"

"No. It means victory through paralysis. The goal doesn't mean anything. It's unity that counts."

"That's so profound! I feel like an espresso. What about you?"

1) Renewed Impetus to Sanction Iran
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