Iranian autocrat Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is blessing us with his annual pilgrimage to the United Nations General Assembly. More media savvy than before during his last two annual Big Apple forays, he made his ritualistic yet shopworn gesture for dialogue "based on respect and justice" (i.e. code words to his UN Security Council hosts to drop their opposition to Iran's illicit nuclear weapons development program).
Perhaps Fidel Castro's recent criticism of him must have gotten under the Iranian president's skin. Ahmadinejad did not launch into his usual Holocaust denial stupor or incendiary anti-Israel rhetoric for which Castro publicly dressed him down. Instead, he reserved his bluster to warn the U.S. that it has no idea what a real war is about (not even "World War II"). Remember, such out-of-this-universe assertion comes from a guy who condones the stoning of women in the 21st century.
Mahmoud's theatrics aside, Iran is defying the IAEA and the UN to such an extent that even Iran's few remaining allies are worried -- one reason why Castro took his ally, Mahmoud, to task.
To their credit, the Obama Administration and the Congress have each been effective in ratcheting up UN-sponsored and mandated economic sanctions against Iran in a reasl effort to forestall the need to redress Iran's defiance of the UN by military means. A rare demonstration of true-bipartisanship in this day and age.
Under United Nations imprimatur, the U.S. is jawboning most of Iran's international partners to slam the door as tightly as possible on trade and banking relations in the hope that Iran's Supreme Leader will be forced to make a choice: either risk further sanction-induced internal instability and accelerate Iran's rush to nuclear weapons capability or obey the official will of the international community. There is a fine record of success so far. Although there are no instant cures when it comes to imposing international sanctions -- unfortunately, their success or failure will be measured not it years but in months.
If sanctions fail to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, the President has made it justifiably clear that "all options remain on the table," but that the U.S. prefers a peaceful resolution of the crisis -- a position that is eminently reasonable and responsible under the circumstances.
Iran's threat to global stability, its state sponsorship of terrorism, its illegal military support for Al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah, its violations of human and civil rights, and its nuclear weapons ambitions represent a quandary that has preoccupied national security experts for years.
Yet, for some inexplicable reason Mahmoud's latest charm offensive seems to be captivating some in the media who are caught up in his, umm, let's say, "witchcraft."
It has been distressing to witness the fawning that Mahmoud generates among news neophytes when he comes a-callin'. Case in point, the appearance of a callow cadre of "rip and read" commentators whose foreign policy credentials amount to the occasional visit to IHOP. They pop up on television as so-called Iran and Middle East experts railing unsubstantiated accusations against Iran's critics. Dismissive of Iran's internal oppression or its malevolent international conduct they insist that sinister and extremist forces are hard at work to brainwash the Obama Administration into a military conflict with Iran. They point to unsubstantiated conspiracies and fringe sources to buttress the fairy tales.
As apologists for Iran's misconduct and Ahmadinejad's reliance on the big lie, they do not want to be bothered by facts, details or complexities that cause diplomats to lay awake at night. Just today, I heard one such "salon seater" dismiss Iran's nuclear weapons program as a figment of the IAEA's imagination and painted anyone who disagrees with his characterization of Iran's challenges to the UN's global security obligations as an "extremist."
Alas, another enlistee in the "Newt Gingrich Traitors & Treachery Academy" whose graduates are promised rich donor rewards from blind followers for stoking fears of fifth columnists within our midst.
No one can deny that the potential use of military forces against Iran's illegal nuclear weapons program is fraught with immediate and long-term consequences. U.S. military officials and diplomats are justifiably reticent to resorting to the use of force to resolve Iran's international defiance. Americans have sacrificed far too much in Afghanistan and Iraq to stumble into an avoidable war with Iran. Fortunately, neither seasoned national security journalists nor news neophytes will be making that call. That decision rests on the shoulders of a Commander in Chief who will have far more information and intelligence at his disposal than any army of arm chair experts.