Ed Morrissey’s question at Hot Air today – whether Obama has been outmaneuvered by Iran in the game of Uranium Gotcha – reminded me immediately of a September 2009 piece that now begs for resurrection. In the original item at the Huffington Post, Joseph Cirincione offered the following sober assessment of Obama’s skills in the wake of his revelation about the once-secret Fordo uranium enrichment site near Qom:
Obama knew all along that Iran had a secret uranium factory. He may be more of a master strategist than his foes–and even his friends–have realized.
The key to understanding today’s announcement on Iran is this: President Obama knew about the secret Iranian facility nine months ago. Before he began his strategy of engagement, he knew Iran was lying about its program. When he extended his hand in friendship, he knew Iran had built a secret factory to enrich uranium. Before he offered direct talks, he knew Iran was hiding a nuclear weapons breakout capability.
Each move was denounced as “weak” and “naïve” by the right. That talk looks foolish today. These were the moves of a chess master, carefully positioning pieces on the board, laying a trap, and springing it at the opportune moment.
There was a lot more in that judicious vein. Oddly, we have heard little of this kind of hagiographic effusion in the last 8 months.
Just to recap, the Iranians have not only not ceased work at the once-secret Qom enrichment site, they have officially declared it to the IAEA, been inspected, received a light hand-slap for not declaring it sooner, and announced that they will commence enrichment operations there in 2011. So unless Obama launched this process because of an urgent desire to get Iran’s paperwork squared away, it’s hard to make a connection between his masterful maneuver last fall and any outcome other than what the mullahs had in mind themselves.
It gets even harder when we reflect on the fact that the Iranians, flush with the success of checking all the administrative blocks for the Fordo site, declared in March that they would begin constructing two more such sites this year.
Presumably, since the Iranians finally have a reliable checklist and the sites have already been announced, the new sites will not be the subjects of any masterful chess moves by Obama.
Meanwhile, the news outlets today are full of information about how Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium has grown so much since the fuel-swap proposal was first made, in October 2009, that Iran can now hand over the agreed amount to Turkey and still have enough in her IAEA-supervised stash for a weapons breakout capability.
Whatever Obama was playing in September, it wasn’t chess. Cheating at Candyland is more like it. With his Qom-Fordo site disclosure, he basically put the Neapolitan ice cream card on the top of the pile while no one was looking, and then faked big surprise when he drew it himself. If anyone was unclear as to the quality of his editorial enthusiasts’ political acumen, the Cirincione piece – so utterly wrong, and detected in its errors by so many at the time – should be printed out and read at least once a month as a refresher.
Cross-posted at Hot Air.