In case you missed it, and you probably did, Iran is expected to clear an important nuclear hurdle by mid-2014 on its way to full weapons capability: "Iran is expected to achieve a critical capability ... to produce sufficient weapon-grade uranium from its safeguarded stocks of low enriched uranium for a nuclear explosive, without being detected," the Institute for Science and International Security concluded this week.
We added the Italics, but if ISIS is right, Iran will soon be poised for what's known as a nuclear breakout. Tehran will able to enrich enough nuclear material to weapons grade without setting off alarms at the International Atomic Energy Agency.
For U.S. officials and their allies, who have spent the better part of a decade trying to jawbone Iran out of its nuclear ambitions, this would mean only one thing: Game, set, match to the mullahs.
So U.S. officials want to give Rouhani a chance to prove himself. In recent days, the administration has moved to ease sanctions on some humanitarian and medical aid, as a gesture of good will to Rouhani. Some House members had asked their leaders to delay a vote on the sanctions bill. Two problems:
•Rouhani isn't a dew-eyed naif scattering rose petals to bring the U.S. to the table. He spent two years as the regime's top nuclear negotiator, and he once bragged that his relatively conciliatory stance was a clever gambit that allowed Iran to continue its nuclear program unimpeded. "We're not negotiating with folks who trained at the Harvard Negotiation Project," Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told The New York Times. Amen.
•Rouhani doesn't run the country. His boss, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, does. While inflation rages and unemployment spikes in Iran, Khamenei has shown no signs of veering from the nuclear path. A few months ago, he even challenged the notion that ordinary Iranians were suffering as the West has gradually tightened its economic tourniquet. He told visitors that economic sanctions were hurting the U.S. more than Iran. That's how isolated — or callous — he is.