The story is told that, during Lebanon’s civil war (1975–90), four Soviet diplomats were kidnapped by a terrorist group. Two days later its leader received a box containing the testicles of his son – and a warning from the Russians: “Don’t ever bother our people again.”
The Soviets’ reprisal was ruthless but effective. The three surviving hostages were released unharmed and no more Soviets were kidnapped in Lebanon. A brutal response targeting something deeply valued by the enemy deterred future attempts at blackmail. Is the West doing the same with Iran?
Not quite. At a meeting in Geneva in July, the major powers gave Iran a deadline of August 2 to accept its latest proposal: Iran would not increase its enrichment capacity by adding new centrifuges and the international community would not introduce new sanctions against Iran. This offer is in fact a retreat from the previous demand to stop enrichment or face sanctions — as four UN Security Council resolutions indeed require. The package of incentives is an even more flattering and generous offer than the one made in 2006.
Predictably, the deadline was ignored, just as all the others have been. All Iran had to do was to stop installing new centrifuges in Natanz, its uranium enrichment facility, and then start negotiations on the latest incentive package that the six nations offered Iran in exchange for a suspension of its uranium enrichment programme. Instead, Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, announced the installation of thousands of new centrifuges the week after the Geneva meeting. Then his foreign minister ridiculed the notion of a deadline: “The language of deadline-setting is not understandable to us.”