After Iran test-launched another medium range ballistic missile on Tuesday, the American Ambassador to the United Nations stated simply that the U.S. was “conducting a serious review of the reported incident.” That’s a bit different than the reaction one would expect. The NYT:
Before the Iran nuclear accord, the White House regularly condemned Tehran’s tests. But now, officials say privately, they believe that the tests may be the work of angry elements in Iran’s military who hope to derail the nuclear accord and preserve their atomic infrastructure.
“We’re seeing a lot of infighting within Iran now,” one senior American official said.
Outside analysts seemed to have little doubt about what the Iranians launched on Nov. 21: a Ghadr-110, a version of the country’s Shahab-3 missile. That missile figured in the nuclear negotiations, because of evidence that Iran had conducted studies about how to shrink a nuclear device to fit into the Shahab’s nose cone.
The November test, if confirmed, would be a clear violation of Security Council Resolution 1929, which remains in force until the nuclear accord goes into effect — probably in January. After that, a new Security Council resolution will take effect, in which Iran is “called upon” to stop work for eight years on any ballistic missiles that could deliver a nuclear weapon. But the test would not violate the nuclear accord itself.
The Kennedy and Clinton dynasties both seem to be dissociating themselves from President Obama’s latest show of restraint:
“Ignoring violations of the agreement will send a troubling signal to not only Iran, but our allies in the region about our commitment to vigorously enforcing its restrictions,” Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, Democrat of Massachusetts, said after writing a letter to President Obama with Representative Ted Deutch, Democrat of Florida.
Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, said in a speech on Sunday that there should be no tolerance for small violations of the nuclear agreement.
The President appears to think that Iran’s latest missile test is an evil plot by military hardliners against the friendly moderates with whom he has signed an agreement. Perhaps. The problem is that this kind of thinking, and the passive response to Iranian provocations that stems from it, may end up empowering hardliners rather than weakening them. After all, the hardliners are able to say, “Look, the Americans are so weak and confused that they don’t even respond to provocations with further sanctions.” That can be a strong argument in Iran in favor of pushing the envelope even further.
This is why many Democrats as well as Republicans are worried about President Obama’s continued passivity, or as he might put it, masterful restraint, in the face of the ballistic missile test.