What happened

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator resigned ahead of crucial talks this week. The negotiator, Ali Larijani, suppprts Iran’s nuclear ambitions but had tried to get President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to soften his hardline approach. His departure raised fears Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was backing Ahmadinejad’s approach as oil prices rise, giving the country enough extra money to ride out any new economic sanctions.

What the commentators said

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Larijani’s resignation is “really bad news,” said Joe Klein in Time’s Swampland blog. Khamenei doesn’t necessarily intend to try to “wipe Israel off the map” with his bomb, but he does want to “match” the arsenal of his dangerous neighbor, Pakistan—“the single worst harborer of terrorists.” So much for the hope that cooler heads will prevail in this increasingly frightening region.

It is impossible to overstate the threat of Iran’s nuclear program, said Niall Ferguson in the Los Angeles Times (free registration). The U.S. simply must do something to stop it. “True, after all that has gone wrong in Iraq, Americans are scarcely eager for another preventive war to stop another rogue regime from owning yet more weapons of mass destruction that don't currently exist.” But the reality is that the hope for a “purely diplomatic solution” are “dwindling fast.”

“The American discussion about Iran has lost all connection to reality,” said Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek. Last week, President Bush went so far as to say that preventing Iran from learning how to make a bomb was necessary “if you’re interested in avoiding World War III.” The reality is that Iran has “an economy the size of Finland’s,” and a $4.8 billion defense budget—the Pentago has 110 times as much money to spend. Iran hasn’t invaded another country since the late 18th century, yet it’s supposed “overturn the international system” in the name of Islamo-fascism? “What planet are we on?”

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