Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 22:33
UPDATE 2100 GMT: Sometimes I wonder if a psychiatrist should just diagnose schizophrenia in the patient called the US Administration. Earlier today, we cited one "senior official" who said the US did not see an imminent threat from Tehran because of technical issues in its nuclear program. David Broder of The Washington Post, however, has a different "private" view from another official: "A senior administration official, dining with a small group of reporters two weeks ago, say that in his judgment, within a year to 18 months, after the diplomats have played out their hands at the United Nations, we will face a showdown with Iran."
Perhaps the two views can be reconciled with "no war now, maybe war later", but my impression is that yet again we have an Administration at war with itself over whether to talk to Iran or beat it over the head.
EA has learned that one of the Obama administration's most senior officials dealing with the Iran nuclear issue revealed the core of the US strategy at a private gathering in Washington this week.
Officially the US is still interested in the talks for "third-party enrichment" of Iran's uranium. However, Washington assessed that Iran has been able to enrich enough uranium since the autumn discussions that the amount being considered is superfluous. Washington, therefore, is less eager to pursue the deal.
(I find the statement somewhat curious, as the advantages of a deal are as much political --- getting an easing of US-Iran relations --- as they are technical. I sense there may be broader reasons for Washington's stall on talks.)
While pointing to Iran's enrichment of uranium, the official said Washington believes the "nuclear clock has slowed down significantly" because of technical difficulties in the enrichment program. (I suspect this may refer to the limitations on Iran's centrifuges.)
Therefore, the official said, "We have more time before the Israelis feel the need to take action."
(Some observers believe that comment indicates a tacit understanding in the administration that Israel will eventually reach the point of action and the U.S. will not stand in its way. My own reading is that the statement tries to take the heat out of the "Israeli dimension" by indicating there is no imminent threat to the Israelis from a militarised nuclear programme in Tehran.)