Excruciating new problems never nullify the old onesstates John Vinocur as the International Herald Tribune pundit notes the difference in the Apologizer-in-Chief's support for Egyptian protesters versus his total lack thereof concerning Iranian demonstrators.
In the case of Iran’s potential nuclear threat, Egypt’s gathering implosion — joined by some new elements of concern — is only more bad news for the West.
… A situation in Egypt where the West, including the Obama administration, looks both challenged in articulating its support for the protesters shaking an apparently futureless regime in Cairo and unwilling to openly assert that it wants a successor to Hosni Mubarak who would hold to his clear line against Iran becoming a nuclear power.
In Tehran, the mullahs have been comparing the wobbling Mubarak regime to the fall of the shah in 1979.
Indeed, a better comparison might be with the circumstances around the mullahs’ stolen election in 2009. At the time — and since — President Barack Obama of the United States didn’t (and hasn’t) offered either verbal or practical backing to the Iranian opposition against a government whose history of oppression and contempt for the law is well documented, and well known.
Now check out this cornucopia of emerging and baleful ironies relating to Iran that might be delighting the mullahs:
• The man mentioned in Washington as a possible leader of a caretaker government in preparation for an election in Egypt is Mohamed ElBaradei, the former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the global nuclear watchdog.
Over the weekend, the French newspaper Le Figaro described Mr. ElBaradei’s tenure as bent on minimizing the danger of Iran’s nuclear program. Its security affairs writer quoted a former French high representative at the agency as saying of the Egyptian, who was given the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership at I.A.E.A.: “He systematically underestimated the progress of the Iranian program, used deliberately vague language, and concealed certain essential elements. He contributed to delaying sanctions against Iran.”
Washington provided the irony: An American official, referring to the Egyptian, said: “He’s shown an independence from us that will squelch any argument he’s doing our bidding.”
• Russia’s moment of seeming helpfulness involving Iran may be replaced by another attempt by Moscow to wield its cooperation on the issue as a new quid pro quo.
… The possible maneuver: Over the past two years, Russia could regard that it had some success in trying to leverage its position on Iran in exchange for modifications in NATO’s plans for a missile defense shield or the New Start nuclear arms agreement with the Americans. Now, just as it refashions its view on Iran, it is making clear, according to articles last week in the Russian newspaper Kommersant, that its view of cooperating with NATO on missile defense must involve “sectorization,” or giving Russia responsibility for an area in Eastern and Northern Europe that NATO believes would recreate a Soviet-type zone of influence.
All this has the look of renewed Russian hardball, with Iran potentially reappearing in the game as a pressure point. Irony? Mr. Medvedev, everybody’s pal in the Kremlin, chose a tone of friendly regret last week to say that if there’s no acceptance of Russian terms on missile defense, “In the future, we’ll have to take unpleasant decisions on the deployment of nuclear strike units.”
• The French, who uncovered the Iranians’ secret nuclear reactor in Qum in 2009, are now making the case to the allies that they have hard evidence that North Korea has exported significant quantities of highly enriched uranium to Iran.
That is an assertion that wilts irony. Basically, it seems to mean: How can anyone say there’s a lengthened timetable for dealing with Iran and less urgency for tougher unilateral measures that skirt the U.N. Security Council?