Daniel W. Drezner

Hello, and welcome to Bizarro world politics

If I had told you a year month week ago, dear readers, that the United States was going to be adopting a more dovish position on Iran than the International Atomic Energy Agency, you’d have thought me a pretty foolish man. I just bring this up because of this New York Times story by Elaine ...

If I had told you a year month week ago, dear readers, that the United States was going to be adopting a more dovish position on Iran than the International Atomic Energy Agency, you’d have thought me a pretty foolish man. I just bring this up because of this New York Times story by Elaine Sciolino:

The International Atomic Energy Agency on Tuesday publicly embraced the new American intelligence assessment stating that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons effort, but in truth the agency is taking a more cautious approach in drawing conclusions about Iran?s nuclear program. ?To be frank, we are more skeptical,? a senior official close to the agency said. ?We don?t buy the American analysis 100 percent. We are not that generous with Iran.? The official called the American assertion that Iran had ?halted? its weapons program in 2003 ?somewhat surprising.? That the nuclear watchdog agency based in Vienna is sounding a somewhat tougher line than the Bush administration is surprising, given that the administration has long criticized it for not pressuring Iran hard enough to curb its nuclear program. But the American finding has so unsettled governments, agencies and officials dealing with Iran that it has suddenly upended commonly held assumptions. There is relief, as one senior French official put it, that ?the war option is off the table.? There is also criticism and even anger in some quarters that the American intelligence assessment may be too soft on Iran.

Tomorrow in Bizarro world politics — Dick Cheney buys Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a flower. UPDATE: Some of the commenters seem to think I’m dissing the IAEA in this post, in which case I didn’t blog clearly enough. What’s startling is not the IAEA’s position — they’ve been pretty consistent in their take on Iran for the past few years. What’s startling is the 180 pulled by U.S. intelligence officials between the 2005 NIE and the 2007 NIE, and the mismatch between this latest NIE and the Bush administration’s rhetoric from the past few months. Ironically, for all of the criticism the Bush administration has heaped on the IAEA and Mohammed ElBaradei, it’s their consistency that enhances the likelihood of maintaining the necessary coalition that opposes large-scale Iranian enrichment — which in turn makes it likely that Iran will continue to keep its weapns program in a deep freeze.

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