Friday, March 10, 2006

The Persian clock

We need a European approach to supporting democracy in Iran is one of Timothy Garton Ash's better recent pieces. He writes:
Two clocks are ticking in Iran: the nuclear clock and the democracy clock. The strategic objective of western policy must be to slow down the nuclear clock and to speed up the democracy clock.
and goes on to make some sensible sounding suggestions of what Europeans could do (enhanced cultural exchanges, a BBC TV channel in Persian etc). But what can we know about how fast are those clocks running?

In Exiles in the 6 March edition of The New Yorker (not archived online at the time of writing), Connie Bruck notes that Israeli intelligence asserts that Iran may be a year away from what it calls "the point of no return", or self-sufficiency, to acquire a nculear bomb. US intelligence sources are said to estimate that Iran is between five and ten years away from having a nuclear weapon.

This seems to imply that the Israelis are likely to push for or carry out strikes against nuclear targets in less than a year, should the climate in Washington prove favourable.

How that climate develops depends in part on who stays on top there. Hendrik Hertzberg (
Veep Doo-doo) thinks Dick Cheney is not likely to step down after congressional elections in November (if he did, though, how long would Elizabeth Cheney outlast him at State?) .

On a lighter note, perhaps the Iranians and the Americans will still be talking in September 2008 (Hooman Majd: Party On?).

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