Ahmadinejad and the Weak

“[The international community can give Iran] as many deadlines as they want, we don’t care.”  These words seem like they could have been taken right from the masochistism playbook.  Yet they seem to be more of a reflection of reality than a fanatics ill-advised dissent in front of the world’s greatest power.  These are the words that Iranian president  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used to ignore the lastest deadline by the American-led Western coalition.  Of course, Iran says that its nuclear activity is for electricity – while not denying its right to nuclear weapons – while the West worries about the country turning its low-enriched uranium into weapons grade.  Ahmadinejad retorts: “We told you that we are not afraid of sanctions against us, and we are not intimidated.  If Iran wanted to make a bomb, we would be brave enough to tell you.”

While Ahmadinejad dismissed the end of the year deadline, the White House, through spokeman Robert Gibbs, tried to remind the Middle Eastern country about the serious nature of the deadline and the possibility of severe sanctions should Iran ignore the deadline:

“Mr. Ahmadinejad may not recognize, for whatever reason, the deadline that looms, but that is a very real deadline for the international community,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Tuesday… The decision for them to live up to their responsibilities is their decision… We have offered them a different path. If they decide not to take it, then the (major powers) will move accordingly.”

While intense rhetoric is being used by the United States and Iran, it is hardly new or surprising.  Iran ignoring deadlines set by the United States is very similar to Michael Cera movies; it remains predictable throughout, but always leaves you wondering what happened.

In September, Ahmadinejad let pass Obama’s deadline to engage diplomatically, saying that “the nuclear issue is finished” and “”we will never negotiate on the Iranian nation’s rights.”  It was in July when Obama gave Iran until the G20 to engage in serious talks.  Sure they talked, but they were far from serious.  The result: What happened to the deadline? Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad continued to stand up to the West and continue on his way to possible membership into the exclusive nuclear club.

So is Ahmadinejad’s defiance an act of a madman or a rational decision based on very clear historical trends?  Iran faced few consequences when it ignored the West in the past, so, logically, the future will likely be the same.  Maybe this is true, maybe not.  The House of Representatives in the US has already preliminary petroleum sanctions that will hurt the Iranian citizens and alienate US trading partners, but is unlikely to bend the will of Tehran (“Afshin Rattansi, a journalist based in Iran, told Al Jazeera: ‘I think what is happening in the House of Representatives demonstrates yet again a complete lack of comprehension of what is happening in the Middle East.’”).

With the West nervous about needing to enforce consequences, Ahmadinejad has been busy moving his nuclear program forward, even openly announcing that has tested a longer-range missile and will be using more more efficient centrifuges in 2011.  The likely short-term result?  Ahmadinejad continues to follow his own road while the West slaps some inefficient sanctions on Iran.  Most likely long-term result?  If the United States is correct about Iran desire to obtain a nuclear weapon, the West adopts a containment strategy similar to that used in the Cold War or Washington allows an Israeli strike on Iran.  All seem to be just terrible outcomes for the US, but they are realities that would inspire defiance.

Photo from Reuters

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