From Fred Kaplan in Slate, with thanks to Ali Dashti:
Iran’s new pledge to halt its advance toward a nuclear arsenal is at best a gamble, more likely a deception. But the awful truth of our predicament (and, by “our,” I mean the world’s) is that we have no real choice but to swallow hard and make the best of it.
The obstacles to even this course are considerable. The Iranians have a long record of lies and coverups about their nuclear program. The Europeans, who negotiated the new accord, are too willing to see the bright side of ambiguity in order to preserve harmony and commerce. Meanwhile, the Bush administration has no Iranian policy, apart from a passive-aggressive yearning for “regime change,” and so seems unwilling to take part in any talks at a moment when shrewd U.S. engagement might make a difference. (Given the administration’s inter-term disarray, it might also be unable to focus on the subject.)…
Iran in 2004 looks distressingly like North Korea in 2002. A vaguely hostile, secrecy-shrouded regime steps up its nuclear-weapons program. President Bush issues threats and condemnations, does nothing to enforce them (because there’s nothing he can really do), yet also refuses to negotiate, citing “moral principles” about submitting to “blackmail.” Two years ago, North Korea kicked the IAEA inspectors out of its reactors, unlocked and reprocessed 8,000 fuel rods, and has probably since built a half-dozen A-bombs. If Bush does nothing about Iran now, how many bombs will the mullahs have by the time he leaves office?