William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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THE CLOCK IS TICKING – AT 9:54 A.M. ET:  Reading about the monumental incompetence, indifference, and dishonesty revealed in our first two posts this morning, we must be deeply concerned about upcoming nationals-security challenges...and the clowns who will handle them.   The first is Iran.  The news from there is no more encouraging than it has been for the last 33 years.  From WaPo: 

VIENNA — Judging by its expanding nuclear program, harsh sanctions against Iran have done little but impose hardship on its people, while diplomacy has also failed to slow the Islamic Republic’s atomic progress. And while more talks are planned for later this month, there is a growing sense that the nuclear standoff between Iran and the international community is reaching a tipping point.

Iran can theoretically back down. But because it insists that all of its nuclear work is peaceful and protected by international law it is unlikely to go further than repeating its top leader’s religious edicts against nuclear weapons in pushing for an end to sanctions. That in turn will lead to another negotiating failure — and mounting pressure for military intervention to prevent Tehran from becoming a threshold nuclear weapons power.

Each side wants what the other is bringing to the table at the planned Feb. 25 talks in Kazakhstan. The problem is that both want the other to blink first.

For the P5 +1 — the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany — the onus is on Iran. They want Tehran to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent — a grade that is only a technical step away from the level used to arm nuclear warheads. Then, they want it to transfer its 20-percent stockpile out of the country. They also demand that Iran shut down Fordo — the bomb-resistant underground bunker where Iran is enriching uranium to 20 percent. Only then are they ready to discuss sanctions relief on Iranian oil and financial transactions.

COMMENT:  And Iran has turned down a generous offer from the U.S. to negotiate directly with us.  We are not surprised.

This is going nowhere.  Wait, that's wrong.  It's going somewhere, and that somewhere could be disastrous.  We are guided by a president who's led us into one setback after another.  We now know from yesterday's congressional testimony that the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff both recommended, early in Syria's genocidal conflict, that we arm some of the rebel groups.  The president refused, apparently concerned that it might complicate his election campaign.  And this is the man we depend on to confront, by force if necessary, Iran's nuclear program. 

In Chinese culture, the Year of the Snake is just beginning.  It is said to be characterized by great convulsions.  The 9/11 attacks occurred in another Year of the Snake, as did the Wall Street collapse of 1929.  Welcome to this Year of the Snake.  The next rattle you hear may be coming toward you.

February 8, 2013