Bush Drops Military Option, Tehran Slams Door on Diplomacy

In a radical about-face, White House officials suddenly “discovered” Monday, Dec. 3, that Iran had halted it nuclear weapons program four years ago, but has continued to enrich uranium and could have enough material to build a bomb between 2010 and 2015. This “discovery” appeared in the latest National Intelligence Estimate, together with the comment that Iran seems less determined to develop nuclear arms than previously believed and is more vulnerable to international pressure.
This finding caused astonishment and dismay in Israeli political and military circles, particularly in the light of the close Israel-US rapport over last week’s Annapolis conference on the Middle East and the close Olmert-Livni-Barak lineup behind the Bush vision of Palestinian statehood.
Monday, too, even the “moderate” Arab turnout at the Middle East conference proved to be an illusion when Saudi King Abdullah walked into the GCC conference hall in Doha hand in hand with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Iranian president was invited to the Gulf summit for the first time. The “moderate” Arab front against Iran, proudly presented by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and prime minister Ehud Olmert, melted away to nothing.
Presenting the NIE, Bush’s national security adviser Stephen Hadley said: “The estimate offers ground for hope that the problem can be solved diplomatically without the use of force, as the administration has being trying to do.”
debkafile‘s sources in Israel: In effect, Washington has taken the military option off the table at the very moment that Tehran’s Saeed Jalili slammed the door on diplomacy in the “disastrous” conversation he held with the European Union’s Javier Solana in London, Saturday, Dec. 1.
The Bush about-face, which leaves Israel high and dry against a regime committed to wipe the Jewish state off the map, may be designed to draw attention from the happy communion between the Saudi monarch and Iranian president in Doha and other policy debacles.
After years of foot-dragging, Tehran has decided it has nothing to fear from the US and so why bother with further engagement over its nuclear program? Deputy foreign minister Saeed Jalili, the dour official who took over negotiations from the urbane Ali Larijani, did not mince his words with the Solana. According to the New York Times, Ahmadinejad’s close ally said: ‘Everything in the past is past, and with me, you start over,'” He added: ‘None of your proposals has any standing.'”
When Solana said that he was under the assumption that there would be continuity in the talks, Mr. Jalili told him he was wrong
The French official described the meeting as “a disaster,” adding “Jalili essentially said: ‘Everything that Larijani has proposed is a dead letter and we have to start from zero.'”
The Iranian official is also quoted as saying: “There is no longer an Iranian nuclear problem,” and the only interlocutor recognized by Iran from now on would be the International Atomic Energy Agency, with whom he claimed Tehran had solved all its problems.
The London conversation took place as the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany met in Paris over the weekend to discuss a third sanctions resolution. The Chinese delegate agreed for the first time to join a sanctions motion, but the meeting was unable to agree on the nature of those penalties or the degree of their harshness.
From the posture adopted by Jalili in London, it is clear that Iran is no longer willing to heed international pressure for halting its drive for nuclear arms – especially since the Bush administration is clearly short of backing from the “moderate” Arab front.
In these circumstances, the White House has opted for minimizing the Iranian nuclear arms threat rather than confronting it.

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