February 1, 2010
A year ago, in his inauguration speech, Barack Obama spoke of extending a hand to hostile nations if they were willing to unclench their fists. That may have improved America’s image but it has in no way alleviated one of the West’s primary security concerns – Iran’s drive to become a nuclear-armed state. An agreement last October to move much of Iranian nuclear fuel out of the country provided a ray of hope, but Tehran backed away from implementation.
[efoods]That Washington now sees no immediate future in attempts at reconciliation has become clear over the past few days. The execution last Thursday of two men arrested in the protests that swept Iran after last June’s disputed presidential elections reminded us once again of the ruthlessness of a regime that has mocked all attempts at international reconciliation. In the margins of the London conference on Afghanistan, Hillary Clinton pressed her Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, to agree to a new round of sanctions against Iran. And over the weekend the Administration told American newspapers that it was stepping up defences against possible missile attacks by Tehran on Arab Gulf states. These include the stationing of Patriot missile batteries in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates; the permanent deployment of Aegis-class cruisers in the Gulf; and help for Saudi Arabia in tripling the forces that protect oil rigs, ports and desalination plants.
The moves follow Mr Obama’s decision last September to abandon plans to locate missile defences in the Czech Republic and Poland, and are based on evidence that the Iranians are concentrating on short- and medium-range missiles, rather than ones capable of hitting the heart of Europe. They are also intended to dissuade Israel from launching attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities.