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Eli Lake in the NY Sun:

The suicide commandos story, reported by the Associated Press yesterday in Tehran, puts into sharp relief the stakes of the latest round of nuclear brinkmanship between Iran's ruling mullahs and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran reversed its position yesterday and said it would agree temporarily to halt enrichment of uranium.

If the Iranian regime were to obtain a nuclear weapon, it could make it harder for its targets to respond to terrorism from Tehran.

"There is no question the Iranian regime looks at the second Gulf War and says this would never have happened to Saddam if he already had nuclear weapons. This is like a license for Iranian adventurism because it immediately raises the cost to any party that chooses to object," the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, Danielle Pletka, said in an interview yesterday.
Lake refers to this harrowing AP story, which details some mechanics of the recruitment of Shiite terrorists, apparently with at least tacit Iranian support.

The idea, though, that the acquisition of nuclear weapons will allow Iran to increase its support for terrorists is probably not accurate. There is no deterrent right now to such an increase - Iran doesn't appear to be significantly interested such a course of action. Moreover, the lesson of Iraq is that we will invade you regardless of your support for global terrorism - it really doesn't matter if you do or don't support terrorism, you are a target. Unfortunately, we are the irrational actor in this situation.

Update, 11/30/04, 6:52 PM EST: The Jerusalem Post gives us a Kremlinology update:
When Rice arrives at the State Department, she will have to form a new team of Middle East advisers to assist her. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns has been tapped to be the new US ambassador to Russia. And his deputy, David Satterfield, while originally chosen to be ambassador to Jordan – a position that has been vacant for roughly four months – is slated to go, at least temporarily, to Baghdad to be the number two official at the US embassy there. He may not take up the posting in Baghdad, however, until the summer.

The Bush administration has not yet selected replacements for the outgoing NEA team. Some names mentioned in Washington as possible replacements for Burns are David Welch, currently the US ambassador to Egypt, and Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

The administration could be tempted to choose someone like Pletka, from outside the bureaucracy, since she has been a strong advocate of the US-led invasion in Iraq and of democracy promotion in the Middle East.

"Welch is a logical choice if they were going to stay inside the [State Department] building," said one Washington observer of the appointments game. "The message [coming out of the White House] is that they are definitely thinking about going outside the building. And that's much more likely for NEA jobs." The White House, the observer added, would like someone who will play out of the "same playbook."


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