You have to salute the rulers of Iran. They stand on the verge of scoring a stunning diplomatic triumph over the United States. Even more impressive: They did it all on bluff. Their adversaries possessed material advantages in terms of money, technology, military power, and more. But Iran’s rulers had clarity of purpose and the will to win. Without these qualities, the adversaries’ material advantages have seeped away.
A year ago, the rulers of Iran faced disaster. Their currency had lost three-quarters of its value, due in largest measure to the tough economic sanctions drafted by Senators Mark Kirk and Robert Menendez in 2011, and very reluctantly signed into law by President Obama at the beginning of 2012. Inflation was raging, unemployment was surging. Their most useful regional ally, the Syrian regime’s Bashar al-Assad, seemed doomed to destruction, attacked from within by a violent uprising and threatened from without by Obama’s commitment to intervene to stop Assad’s use of chemical weapons.
Today, the United States and Britain are coordinating bombing missions with Assad, not against him. Iran has obtained considerable sanctions relief. Its currency has strengthened, inflation has abated, and foreign trade and investment are reviving. The United States has progressively reduced its demands for nuclear limits on Iran. The New York Times reports that the Obama administration has retreated from the longstanding demand that Iran dismantle its nuclear centrifuges, instead merely calling for Tehran to disconnect them from each other. Iran’s nuclear-enrichment capacity would remain intact, and Iran could resume its progress toward a weapon at almost any time, at the price of only the delay necessary to reconnect the maze of tubing.