Last week President Obama told Israeli TV news that he is confident Iran is only "over a year or so" away from having a nuclear weapon:
"Right now, we think it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon, but obviously we don't want to cut it too close," Obama told Israeli Channel 2.
"They are not yet at the point I think where they've made a fundamental decision to get right with the international community," he said, "but I do think that they're recognizing that there's a severe cost for them to continue on the path that they're on and that there's another door open."….
"When I'm consulting with Bibi, as I have over the last several years on this issue, my message to him will be the same as before: If we can resolve it diplomatically that is a more lasting solution," Obama said in the interview.
"But if not," he added, "I continue to keep all options on the table."
Earlier this month, Vice President Joe Biden warned Iran in a spirited speech to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the powerful pro-Israel lobby, that those "options" include U.S. military action.
"Let me make clear what that commitment is: It is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Period. End of discussion. Prevent — not contain – prevent," Biden said.
And yet, and yet:
U.S. officials have said they believe Iran is developing the technical capability to be able to sprint to a obtaining a nuclear weapon on short notice but has not yet actually decided to pursue that course.
"The intelligence we have is they have not made the decision to proceed with the development a nuclear weapon," outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in an interview last month. "I can't tell you they are in fact pursuing a weapon, because that's what not intelligence say they're doing right now."
And, completely coincidentally, the Washington Post tells us today that various high mucketymucks are reporting more in sorrow than in anger that, well, sanctions just don't seem to be working to stop the Iranians from doing whatever it is they are doing:
Harsh economic sanctions have taken a serious toll on Iran's economy, but U.S. and European officials acknowledge that the measures have not yet produced the kind of public unrest that could force Iranian leaders to change their nuclear policies.
Nine months after Iran was hit with the toughest restrictions in its history, the nation's economy appears to have settled into a slow, downward glide, hemorrhaging jobs and hard currency but appearing to be in no immediate danger of collapse, Western diplomats and analysts say…..
Marine Gen. James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command, said Iran has accelerated its nuclear program in the past year, despite the diplomatic and economic pressure. Iran continues "enriching uranium beyond any plausible peaceful purpose" and is probably using negotiations to stall for time, Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 5.
"I'm paid to take a rather dim view of the Iranians, frankly," he added.
Yes, General, yes you are.
Some interesting details on the specifics of how the current round of sanctions is working:
The United States has granted six-month exemptions to all 20 of Iran's major oil buyers in return for pledges to reduce the amount they buy. Among the exempted countries are China and India, Iran's No. 1 and No. 2 oil customers, respectively.
Iranian oil exports, though sharply down compared with 2011, increased slightly in February, according to figures released by the International Energy Agency. The agency said Iran's exports totaled 1.28 million barrels a day in February, compared with 1.13 million barrels the month before.
A senior administration official said cheating by Iran could help explain the unexpected spike…
"Cheating." An attempt to sell a wanted product in the world market to willing customers is "cheating" because we say they aren't allowed to do it. Alas, sanctions are not a game–they are a damaging act of war–but one that, as the rest of that Post article and most history demonstrate, harms people other than the government we are allegedly targeting first. Our goal: to make the people so unhappy they begin rioting in the streets. Why might these crazy Iranians be so truculent about just doing whatever we say?
Adding the two stories together–we will not let them have nuclear weapons (even though we aren't sure they are trying)! Our current form of low-grade economic warfare isn't making them surrender!–leads to a very grim result.