The announcement took IAEA-chief Muhammad ElBaradei by surprise and left him looking for ways to revive negotiations rather than issuing a critical report to the UN Security Council.
"I am still very much hopeful that that in the next week or so an agreement can be reached," said ElBaradei.
This is bad news for White House strategists who've synchronized their war-plans with the anticipated resolutions by the Security Council. Now, there's a good chance that the 35-member board will slow things down and look for a diplomatic settlement.
This is bound to send the Bush claque into spasms of anxiety. Massive military operations can't be turned off and on at a moment's notice. As we know now, the logistical build-up for Iraq began a full year in advance. So if there is a plan to attack Iran in March (as many analysts believe) it will be hard to change the dates without compromising the entire operation. This means we can expect to see the administration spinning frantically to maintain the momentum for war.
Already State Dept officials are saying that Iran's concessions are insufficient:
"The IAEA has made clear that there needs to be a suspension of these enrichment capabilities for a prolonged period of time necessary to restore confidence. Two years is not a prolonged period of time." (Reuters)
But if the Bush administration really wants peace, then why not wait and see if Iran keeps its word? That's easy enough isn't it?
But Washington's not looking for peace and the State Dept's remarks only confirm that the administration is marching inexorably towards war.
Reuter's is reporting that "Iran may agree to extend a moratorium (on industrial-enrichment) if it is permitted to run a small-scale enrichment research program."
This shows that Iran has no grandiose plans for building nuclear weapons but just needs a face-saving way of freeing itself from the current confrontation.
Will ElBaradei help to bail Iran out or throw them to the wolves?
UN Ambassador John Bolton has added to the drama by threatening to retaliate if Iran resumes nuclear activities which are allowed under the terms of the NPT. Addressing the powerful Jewish lobby, AIPAC, Bolton said that Iran would face "tangible and painful consequences" if it fails to comply with US demands to suspend all enrichment activities. He added ominously that the US would use "all tools at our disposal" to stop this threat.
Threat? What threat?
The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) predicted that it would take Iran at least 10 years to develop nuclear weapons! Perhaps, Bolton is referring to the threat of US oil corporations not having access to Iran's prodigious petroleum reserves which are estimated at 10% of the world's remaining supplies.
So far, Bolton's claims have been brushed aside by the IAEA, which has repeatedly said that there is "no evidence" of an Iranian nuclear weapons program or any indication of the diversion of nuclear material.
Bolton's accusations are strictly designed to manipulate public opinion and mobilize the country for another war. They are as baseless as the allegations that dominated the headlines before the war in Iraq.
Did Bolton's vehemence scare ElBaradei and convince him to slow down the process?
We don't know, but the IAEA-chief seems to be following a "foot-dragging" strategy that's intended to dampen Washington's enthusiasm for war.
Bush's trip to India hasn't helped matters either. Bush breezily ignored the NPT (Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty)and promised to provide India's Prime Minister Singh with nuclear fuel and technology without consulting congress, the United Nations, or the IAEA. For Iran, this was just another example of the arbitrary and hypocritical way that nuclear issues are resolved.
Why should India be rewarded for operating outside the NPT when Iran is punished for playing by the rules?
What yardstick is the United States using to decide who gets fuel and technology and who doesn't?
Could it be that India promises open markets, "union-free" labor, and unlimited foreign investment, while Iran sits atop an ocean of oil that begs to be "liberated" by western energy giants?