Wednesday, March 7, 2007

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What I learned at the nonproliferation conference

For the past 36 hours I've been attending the Burkle Center's conference on ""Nuclear Weapons in a New Century: Facing the Emerging Challenges." (Also, I got to use Ron Burkle's bathroom. But let's stay focused for once).

The following is a short list of what I learned:

1) Former SecDef William Perry believes that if Iran and North Korea manage to develop/keep their nukes, "the dam has burst" on the nonproliferation regime.

2) In April 2006, when Iran announced that they had managed to enrich uranium at Natanz, there were female dancers at the announcement holding up vials of the stuff.

3) There was a general consensus that the best way to ensure the continued tenure of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran's president would be to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities.

4) The best way to induce a lunch coma is to have someone rattle off the Bush administration's accomplishments on nonproliferation for 45 minutes.

5) The general consensus was that on nonprolferation, the Bush administration deserved credit for Libya and for the Proliferation Security Initiative. They deserve blame for not talking to Iran or North Korea for too long. Oh, and Iraq was a bad idea too. There was no consensus on the India deal.

6) Despite this assessment, Wesley Clark said someone complained to him that there was "not enough Bush bashing" at the conference. Of course, this was before Joseph Cirincione spoke.

7) The Clinton people, by the way, count North Korea and the former Soviet states as successes -- but they also acknowledge that Pakistan and India were big failures on their watch.

8) At a conference that is open to the public, never, under any circumstances, call on someone wearing a hat to ask a question.

A final point. Mark Kleiman asks:
What I've heard about Iranian politics, from people that I believe know what they're talking about, is that the Guardian Council is somewhat hostile to Ahmadinejad, who isn't very controllable, and that various important power players within the country are nervous about provoking a confrontation with us and the Israelis. I've also heard that the Guardian Council is both faction-ridden and corrupt. How much would it cost for the anti-Ahmadinejad, non-anti-US politicians in Iran to bribe enough Guardians to get their candidates through the next selection round? I don't know, but I doubt it's any substantial fraction of the cost of keeping a CBG on station for a month.
The problem with this analysis is the assumption that a Rafsanjani is a better option than Ahmadinejad. At this point, I'm not so sure. Most of the conservative clerics want the nuclear program as well -- they're just craftier about it. Paradoxically, Ahmadinejad is such a loon that he makes it easier for the U.S. to organize multilateral action against Iran. If the mullahs replaced him with someone who was cagier, it will be next to impossible to get Russia and China to buy into any further action.

posted by Dan on 03.07.07 at 10:19 PM


Exactly. Just because there are factions within Iran increasingly opposed to Ahmadinejad does not automatically follow that they are any less intent on obtaining nuclear weapons. If i'm a conservative Iranian cleric, im angry at Ahmadinejad for going off the reservation and provoking world reaction, rather than following the successful NK playbook of foot dragging and saying whatever will buy you an extra minute or wink and nod. Playing the international community for fools doesnt exactly require Machiovellian brilliance these days- basically just tell them what they want to hear and you can pretty much guaruntee no action in the UN. But Ahmadinejad keeps poking a stick in the world's eye for no useful purpose.

Bottom line- its a bad policy to assume getting Ahmadinejad out of the picture is going to make Iranian nukes less likely. The opposite could easily be the case.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 03.07.07 at 10:19 PM [permalink]

"the dam has burst"

The Buddha is rolling on the floor, laughing.

posted by: Mitchell Young on 03.07.07 at 10:19 PM [permalink]

Dan, you forgot to mention in things you learned at the UCLA nonproliferation conference was that your moronic question about "odious regimes" was roundly chuckled at as selective conservative naivate, not to mention that Ash Carter delivered spot on bitch slap response to you. Maybe put that at number 9? Just a thought.

posted by: Ted on 03.07.07 at 10:19 PM [permalink]

"The Clinton people, by the way, count North Korea and the former Soviet states as successes"

The DPRK? Really? Umm, why, exactly? North Korea was violating that agreement almost as soon as it was signed. I sense a strong bias for agreements and negotiation above all, regardless of the results of the negotiations or whether the agreements are adhered to at all.

posted by: John Thacker on 03.07.07 at 10:19 PM [permalink]

JT is right...the only thing of much importance these days is getting a few signatures on paper. What actually happens after that is irrelevant. (Perhaps the Bush Admin can claim Iran and NK as successes if neither actually sets off a device during the Admin's remaining time in office.)

Yet the Left in particular wonders why the Right scoffs at the UN so consistently and derides it as nothing more than a debating society. Perhaps if the exaulted world bodies would actually ACT on things rather than just talk and sign then unilateral action not be the only type of action that occurs.

posted by: Phocion on 03.07.07 at 10:19 PM [permalink]

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