How Firm is Firm on Enrichment Stance?
A good question has been posed by the editors of Opinion Journal within today's column, Condi's Iran Gambit.
Given the concessions he has already won by refusing to cooperate, Mr. Ahmadinejad won't be in any hurry to oblige now. Already yesterday, Iran was pocketing the direct talks and demanding that any negotiation be "without preconditions." This was entirely predictable, and you can bet this new Iranian demand will soon be echoed in Paris, Moscow and all too many precincts in Washington.
It was good to hear Presidential spokesman Tony Snow yesterday describe that enrichment precondition as the "foundation stone" of the new U.S. proposal. But will Ms. Rice and her main ally in this windmill tilt--Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns--soon be pressing Mr. Bush to make this concession too?
That said, the offer made by SecState Rice most likely holds less at face value than the (understandably) fearful editors at Opinion Journal seem to believe. The offer was made with the "foundation stone" of enrichment cessation knowing fully well that it would be dismissed by Iran.
Condi's real Iran Gambit was the risk run had Iran actually accepted the offer as made. If one believes that Iran would actually stop enrichment activities at unknown sites (and there are plenty who want to believe precisely that), anything is believable.
That, in this humble view, was the real gambit, not a potential softening on enrichment. Stranger things may have happened, but surely not many.