What the frick is going on??
Senators John McCain, Lindsay Graham, and Joe Lieberman are on a Congressional Delegation to Israel this week. While visiting Jerusalem today, the three were asked by reporters about the possibility of Israel attacking Iran’s nuclear sites. Then the strangest thing happened: they gave reasonable answers.
McCain and Graham spoke with uncharacteristic moderation about a potential attack on Iran. McCain:
I don’t believe we are at the point of making that kind of decision, nor is the Israeli government, given the state that Iran is in now as far as the development of their nuclear weapons is concerned
Graham — who is looking more and more like one of the only Republicans in Congress capable of taking a sensible position on foreign policy — said he wouldn’t support an Israeli strike now because “there’s many options still available to us.”
Ordinarily, these Senators would have jumped at the chance to demonstrate their pro-Israel bona fides by hurling enough militaristic Iran-bashing to peel paint off the walls. But instead, we get a hardly-newsworthy quote about how we still have other options and Israel isn’t planning to attack. (Remember, John McCain is in a race for reelection, making it all the more startling that he passed on such a golden chance to score rhetorical points).
Their moderate tone is likely a byproduct of the sanctions bill just signed into law last week. Those sanctions had no bigger supporters than McCain, Lieberman, and Graham, so it’s no surprise that they’ve cooled off a bit for now. At the very least, they probably want to see what effect the new penalties might have on Iran. So far — and here’s the really weird part — things are working out okay for the US.
Usually, Iran loses it after new sanctions are imposed, threatening to walk away completely from nuclear negotiations and to cut back on its already sparse cooperation with the IAEA. That’s why no one really would have been surprised if Ahmadinejad reacted like this.
But instead, Ahmadinejad said negotiations with the P5+1 will be delayed until after Ramadan, as “punishment” for the sanctions, and then the parties can sit back down in September. That’s it…just a cooling off period. Exactly like US officials predicted in the months leading up to the sanctions being passed. There’d be a period of heightened tensions, they said, but after a bit Iran will come back to the table.
And frankly, Iran needed a cooling off period before they could agree to talks, or else it would look like the sanctions were the reason they caved.
So I’m kind of baffled at Iran’s behavior these days when it comes to the nuclear issue. They had every reason to huff and puff, but didn’t; they made significant concessions to the Brazilians and Turks on the fuel swap deal, even though they didn’t have to; and now Salehi is pen-pals with Catherine Ashton and senior members of Parliament are dropping hints that 20% enrichment is a bargaining chip.
Maybe this newer, more conciliatory Iran is a byproduct of the domestic turmoil still lingering from last June. Maybe the IRGC is really just biding time before a major confrontation with the West. Maybe the sanctions actually did increase America’s leverage over Iran. Or maybe none of that.
Whatever is going on, it’s a window of opportunity — we’d best not let it slip away.