Sunday, April 18, 2010

The New York Times scores a totally unsurprising leak

The NYT reported on a leaked memo from Secretary of State Gates that the United States doesn't have any strategy in place to deal with Iran's nuclear program.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has warned in a secret three-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear capability, according to government officials familiar with the document.

Several officials said the highly classified analysis, written in January to President Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, came in the midst of an intensifying effort inside the Pentagon, the White House and the intelligence agencies to develop new options for Mr. Obama. They include a set of military alternatives, still under development, to be considered should diplomacy and sanctions fail to force Iran to change course.
Do the Obama people even recognize that diplomacy might not work? That has been his sole answer to any question about how to deal with Iran. He was going to talk with them. He was going to talk with China about sanctions, really, really tough sanctions. He's going to talk with Russia about sanctions, really, really tough sanctions.
Mr. Gates has alluded to his concern that intelligence agencies might miss signals that Iran was taking the final steps toward producing a weapon. Last Sunday on the NBC News program “Meet the Press,” he said: “If their policy is to go to the threshold but not assemble a nuclear weapon, how do you tell that they have not assembled? I don’t actually know how you would verify that.” But he cautioned that Iran had run into production difficulties, and he said, “It’s going slow — slower than they anticipated, but they are moving in that direction.”

Mr. Gates has taken a crucial role in formulating the administration’s strategy, and he has been known over his career to issue stark warnings against the possibility of strategic surprise.

Some officials said his memo should be viewed in that light: as a warning to a relatively new president that the United States was not adequately prepared.

He wrote the memo after Iran had let pass a 2009 deadline set by Mr. Obama to respond to his offers of diplomatic engagement.

Both that process and efforts to bring new sanctions against Iran have struggled. Administration officials had hoped that the revelation by Mr. Obama in September that Iran was building a new uranium enrichment plant inside a mountain near Qum would galvanize other nations against Iran, but the reaction was muted. The next three months were spent in what proved to be fruitless diplomatic talks with Iran over a plan to swap much of its low-enriched uranium for fuel for a medical reactor in Tehran. By the time Mr. Gates wrote his memo, those negotiations had collapsed.
Have there ever been any diplomatic talks with Iran that wouldn't call for the adjective "fruitless" as a modifier?

Does Obama's lack of a Plan B should such diplomacy not be fruitless surprise anyone?