In the latest indication yet that the US is entering this week’s Iran talks very grudgingly, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly announced today that she doesn’t believe there is any piece of evidence the Iranian government could possibly present which would convince US officials that their civilian nuclear program is “only for peaceful purposes.”
Clinton, who has repeatedly said she doesn’t expect diplomacy to work with Iran, then suggested that the Iranian government could try to “open their entire system” to an extensive investigation, though her focus at this point appears to be finding ways to make the sanctions against Iran more crippling.
The positions in the Obama Administration seemed to be best illustrated by comments made today by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who said it was his “personal opinion that the Iranians have the intention of having nuclear weapons,” while conceding that whether or not they’re actually doing that is “in doubt.”
Which is putting it mildly. Despite the endless list of officials in the Bush and Obama Administrations who have presented Iran’s nuclear weapons program as something known with absolute certainty, top members of the US intelligence community have said as recently as last week that they in fact believe with high confidence that Iran doesn’t have an active nuclear weapons program.
And if administration officials won’t believe their own intelligence reports, or the repeated certifications from the IAEA, it is perhaps not surprising that they won’t believe the Iranian government. Still, it must inevitably beget the question: what incentive does Iran have for providing all this access above and beyond its requirements under the NPT if it won’t be believed anyhow?