Tehran ups the ante again as diplomacy goes nowhere.Mohamed ElBaradei caps his contentious and ultimately failed 12-year stint as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency today, having spent many years enabling Iran's nuclear bids only to condemn them in his final days in office. Mr. ElBaradei combined his rebuke of Iran with his familiar calls for more negotiation, but we'll take his belated realism about Iran as his tacit admission that Dick Cheney and John Bolton have been right all along. Let's hope the education of the Obama Administration doesn't take as long.
As if to underscore the point, yesterday the Iranian government ordered up 10 additional uranium enrichment plants on the scale of its already operational facility in Natanz, which has a planned capacity of 54,000 centrifuges. That could mean an eventual total of more than 500,000 centrifuges, or enough to enrich about 160 bombs worth of uranium each year. Whether it can ever do that is an open question, but it does give a sense of the scale of the regime's ambitions.
The decision is also a reminder of how unchastened Iran has been by President Obama's revelation in September that Iran had been building a secret 3,000 centrifuge facility near the city of Qom. The IAEA's governing board finally got around on Friday to rebuking Iran for that deception, a vote the Administration trumpeted because both Russia and China voted with the United States. But perhaps only within the Obama Administration can a symbolic gesture by the IAEA be considered a diplomatic triumph.
The regime scoffed at Mr. Obama after he delivered a conciliating message for the Persian New Year in March, scoffed again after he mildly criticized its post-election crackdown and killing spree in June (following days of silence), and scoffed a third time by rejecting the West's offer last month to enrich Iran's uranium for it. Yet the Administration insists the enrichment deal is still Iran's for the taking. "A few years ago [the West] said we had to completely stop all our nuclear activities," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last month. "Now look where we are today."
Those are the words of a man who believes he has Mr. Obama's number. And until the President, his advisers and the Europeans realize that only punitive sanctions or military strikes will force it to reconsider its nuclear ambitions, an emboldened Islamic Republic will continue to march confidently toward a bomb over the wreckage of Mohamed ElBaradei's—and Barack Obama's—best intentions.