Iran and Israel: Questions for Michael Oren

Tuesday morning I will be interviewing for PJTV Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael B. Oren. The subject is Iran - and if there is any issue that can wipe our economic woes (or anything else) off the front pages or, more importantly, the top of Drudge, that is it. As that famous Eighties cartoon from the LA Weekly once had it, "Nuclear war?! ... There goes my career!"

I have been doing my homework for the interview, checking with knowledgeable friends, surveying the papers for the latest information. The situation, always fluid, is at a dangerous point. According to the AFP:

US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates said on Saturday he doubted a deal to send some of Iran's uranium abroad for enrichment was close, directly contradicting Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

The latest spat comes amid Western powers' growing impatience with Iran over what they say is a failure to respond clearly to the enrichment proposal, amid suspicions the Islamic republic is trying to acquire a nuclear bomb.

"I don't have the sense we are close to an agreement," Gates told reporters in Ankara, the day after Mottaki said that Tehran was "serious" about sending some uranium abroad for enrichment and that a final deal was near.

I wonder how this dovetails with the startling report from Europe today referenced by Michael Ledeen:

“Iran has developed a nuclear warhead, according to an article in the German newspaper “Sueddeutsche Zeitung”. A foreigner alleged to have helped Iran towards developing nuclear weapons is from the former Soviet Union…The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has already mentioned the employment of a foreigner in the nuclear programme.

If true, this is, as the saying goes, a game changer. If I were the Israelis, I would - to put it mildly - be disturbed. I'm disturbed as an American.

It also adds some urgency to the questions raised by Bret Stephens in his WSJ opinion piece of last week - Seven Myths About Iran. One of those myths - A [military] strike would rally Iranians to the side of the regime - is particularly pertinent with the "Green" democracy movement on the brink of staging one of its biggest demonstrations on February 11. The Islamic regime is apparently about to counter them as never before, bringing in thousands of their "Basij" thugs from the countryside. Our president has been frustratingly neutral - again to put it mildly - about the Iranian democracy movement, seemingly to induce Ahmadinejad, Khamenei & Company into some sort of nuclear deal. It's as if Obama doesn't believe - or perhaps doesn't want to believe - what the Islamic regime clearly describes as their own messianic goals from their Khomeinist Shia philosophy.

I surely will be asking Ambassador Oren about this. He may not give me direct answers. He is a diplomat after all, with all that entails. But it will certainly be interesting to get his views, because Oren is no conventional diplomat, awarded for his generous campaign contributions with a coveted ambassadorship. He is a distinguished historian and the author of the superb Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. Don't hold it against him that he is a graduate of Columbia and Princeton. Or that his book won the Los Angeles Times Book Award. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I have been a judge in that award, but in another category.)

Kidding aside, I am obviously looking forward to this interview and, in the interactive spirit of Pajamas Media and the Internet, solicit your questions. I know this audience realizes how deeply important this issue is to all of us.