William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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IRAN DEFIANT – AT 8:37 A.M. ET:  With international talks on his country's nuclear program only days away, the president of Iran is striking a note of defiance, essentially mocking the sanctions that have been imposed on his country.

(Reuters) - Iran has enough funds to withstand a total embargo on its oil sales for two to three years, Iranian media quoted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying days before the resumption of talks with world powers on Tehran's nuclear programme.

The European Union is set to impose a total embargo on Iranian crude oil from July following similar measures imposed by the United States to try to force Iran to abandon uranium enrichment.

"We must say to them that we have that much saved that even if we didn't sell oil for two to three years, the country would manage easily," a report on Tuesday from Fars news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying during a visit to Hormuzgan province.

The United States and its allies hope the sanctions on Iran's energy and financial sectors will force it to abandon uranium enrichment which they suspect is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran says its goals are entirely peaceful.

Iran is due to resume talks this week with Western countries plus Russia and China on its nuclear programme.

COMMENT:  And if Iran could hold out two or three years, it would probably have a nuclear weapon by the time the economic pain truly began to hurt.

This could be bluster, but the fact remains that no sanctions have ever worked with Iran in forcing the kind of change we're demanding – the abandonment of any part of its nuclear program leading to a weapon.  And there seems to be a general feeling of pessimism about the talks about to start.

In the last few days we've learned that the USS Enterprise strike group has entered the territory near Iran, joining another American carrier.  (For the Enterprise, this is a last hurrah.  It is our oldest aircraft carrier, and will be retired later this year.)  This marks the first time in many years that the United States has had two carriers in the region.  Clearly, this is meant to send a message to the Iranians.  Obama has also said repeatedly that there is little time left for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff.  What does he mean though?  What would we actually do?  No direct answers have been given.

An Israeli newspaper reports this morning that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu promised President Obama that Israel would take no military action against Iran until after the American election.  I suspect, but cannot prove, that the story is true.  To this president, everything is about politics.  But we should be reminded, in this context, of the wisdom expressed by Douglas MacArthur, who reminded us that all military disasters begin with two words:  Too late.

April 10,  2012