Dumb and dumber

Never mind the diplomatic tit-for-tat in Egypt between the United States and Iran; the real action this week is taking place in Vienna, where the Iranians are making moves that appear every bit as stupid as the ones Saddam Hussein made.

Eric Hundman reports at Foreign Policy magazine's Passport blog (a repository of conventional wisdom, albeit an interesting one) that the Iranian delegation to a nuclear nonproliferation conference has been curiously bull-headed this week — insisting on agenda language that merely reinforces what everyone pretty much agrees on already, then shifting its stance the next day.  What's going on?  Hundman evaluates the action both in Vienna and in Egypt.

Iran's diplomats could be overwhelmed and making mistakes. More likely, they are getting conflicting orders…The hardliners may have the upper hand for now, but Iran's confusion suggests that a U.S. strategy of engagement can at least spark a healthy debate in Tehran.

Reading this, I get the feeling that the Iranian hardliners are pulling the same kind of bluff Saddam Hussein did — trying to keep their citizenry united and their enemies cowed by putting forth the notion that they're sticking it to the Great Satan with their weapons programs, even if those programs are fictional.  Of course once Saddam realized he'd been targeted for regime change he coughed up 12,000 pages of documents to demonstrate that he in fact dismantled his WMDs after the Gulf War, but by then it was too late.  God help us all, but Ahmadinejad and his confreres appear to be going down the same road.

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