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Belmont Club

Another turn of the wheel

October 29th, 2009 - 2:01 pm

“They want to keep all the gains, and give nothing away themselves”: this from an article in the Guardian describing the dwindling hopes of Barack Obama’s engagement policy with Iran.

Hopes of a diplomatic breakthrough over Iran’s nuclear programme were dwindling tonight after Tehran demanded changes to a uranium exchange deal that European diplomats described as “unacceptable”.

If the deal collapses, as seemed likely, the apparent progress made over Tehran’s nuclear programme in recent weeks would evaporate, the diplomats said. It would deliver another critical blow to the Obama administration’s policy of engagement, and put international sanctions and Israeli military action back on the table. …

Hopes of a diplomatic breakthrough over Iran’s nuclear programme were dwindling tonight after Tehran demanded changes to a uranium exchange deal that European diplomats described as “unacceptable”.

If the deal collapses, as seemed likely, the apparent progress made over Tehran’s nuclear programme in recent weeks would evaporate, the diplomats said. It would deliver another critical blow to the Obama administration’s policy of engagement, and put international sanctions and Israeli military action back on the table.

The uranium deal, agreed in principle in Geneva at the beginning of the month, involved Iran shipping out most of its enriched uranium and, in return, being provided about a year later with fuel rods for its research reactor in Tehran.

Iran’s response, delivered after a week’s delay to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was not made public, but according to diplomats familiar with the details, Tehran demanded two big changes. They would only ship their uranium out in batches, and only hand it over at the same time the French-made fuel rods were delivered.

That would remove the element of the deal that made it attractive to the west: the temporary removal of most of Iran’s enriched uranium, which is currently enough to make a nuclear weapon. Iran says its nuclear programme is peaceful.

“This is completely unacceptable,” said a European diplomat, who said discussions were under way in Brussels tonight to formulate a common response.

“They want to keep all the gains, and give nothing away themselves,” another diplomat said.

Gee, you would have thought they would have guessed. Meanwhile, in other news, Daniel Ortega is re-establishing himself as the dictator of Nicaragua.  The wolves are howling everywhere, even in the backyard.  Investors.com reports:

Daniel Ortega muscled Nicaragua’s courts to permit his permanent re-election, effectively making him dictator. He’s not alone. After the U.S.’ shabby treatment of tiny Honduras, a new wave of tyrants is rising.

‘Nothing can stop me from re-election,” crowed Ortega, a man Ronald Reagan once called “the little dictator.” Last Monday Nicaragua’s Supreme Court issued a ruling permitting the Marxist Ortega to run for a second term after he and a group of allied mayors petitioned them, overruling a one-term limit in the constitution. Same old Ortega: His dictatorial hunger hasn’t changed.

But one thing is different: U.S. actions since the Honduran crisis that have only emboldened him. Last June 28, Honduras’ Supreme Court ruled that then-President Manuel Zelaya’s bid to hold a reelection referendum was unconstitutional and subject to the sanctions of Honduras’ 1982 constitution: removal from office.

Out he went, but the U.S. cried foul, shortly after Zelaya’s patron in Caracas, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, yelled “military coup.” Unlike Chavez, whose means of striking at Honduras were threats and mayhem — such as sneaking Zelaya back to Tegucigalpa to whip up mobs — the Obama administration was in a position to inflict long-term punishment on the Hondurans.

Readers will recall how President Obama dramatically announced a showdown with Iran at a G20 press conference describing Teheran’s secret nuclear enrichment program. “The accusations were made public in an extraordinary joint statement by the US President, flanked by Gordon Brown and the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy before the start of the G20 economic summit in Pittsburgh”. But in the weeks following, President Ahmadinejad simply gloated over his Western opponents. The Telegraph reported the Iranian President “has proclaimed victory in his battle with the West, claiming he has compelled the US and its allies to ‘co-operate’ with Iran’s nuclear programme”. Maybe it was all show and nothing down.

As Iran’s nuclear negotiator handed in the country’s response to a proposed deal to process its enriched uranium stocks abroad, Mr Ahmadinejad hailed a change in Western policy from “confrontation to co-operation”.

“We welcome fuel exchange, nuclear co-operation, building of power plants and reactors and we are ready to co-operate,” he said in a speech shown live on state television. But he said he would not retreat “one iota” in his demand that the country continue with its nuclear programme, understood by most observers to mean its policy of enriching uranium.

What happens next? The President took a lot of the nation’s hopes as political capital into the Big Casino. Now, after sitting at the tables for 9 months, there’s only a small pile left of what was once a mountain of chips. Is the next hand going to win him big? Is he going to double down again? Or get up and catch a cab home, in case what’s left in his pocket will cover it. Or will he write out a check on the basis of the family farm and spin the wheel of fortune again on the basis of his faith in the fundamental goodness of America’s enemies?  Order another round of drinks for everybody on the Big Spender. Go watch a play on Broadway and keep being Diamond Jim long after all the real diamonds have been hocked for paste. Is there a point where betting on hope means being stuck on stupid? Kenny Rogers once had some advice for people in this situation. But I can’t see his hit tune being played in international diplomatic circles. It wouldn’t go with the wine and cheese.

On a warm summer’s evenin’ on a train bound for nowhere,
I met up with the gambler; we were both too tired to sleep.
So we took turns a starin’ out the window at the darkness
‘Til boredom overtook us, and he began to speak.

He said, “Son, I’ve made my life out of readin’ people’s faces,
And knowin’ what their cards were by the way they held their eyes.
so if you don’t mind my sayin’, I can see you’re out of aces.
For a taste of your whiskey I’ll give you some advice.”

So I handed him my bottle and he drank down my last swallow.
Then he bummed a cigarette and asked me for a light.
And the night got deathly quiet, and his face lost all expression.
Said, “If you’re gonna play the game, boy, ya gotta learn to play it right.

You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.

Ev’ry gambler knows that the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away and knowing what to keep.
‘Cause ev’ry hand’s a winner and ev’ry hand’s a loser,
And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.”


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