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Oh, Canada!

The Gaggle blog over on our sister site Newsweek notes that Canada's parliament has shut down for two months (?!) for the winter Olympic games.

For those of you who have gotten behind on your Canadian politics, here’s a basic rundown. Prime Minster Steven Harper, who leads the Conservative Party, was facing a lot of difficult issues: an inquiry over maltreatment of Afghan detainees, economic woes hosting the Olympics. So he announced in December that he was basically shutting down, or proroguing, Parliament until March 3, 2010, the day after the Olympics ends. And, when they come back to session next month, the agenda is basically reset: any bill that was on the table is done and gone away with. This has lead to numerous prorogation protests across the country, despite Canadians being generally known for their politeness. A one-week shutdown due to a massive snowstorm isn’t looking so insane, now is it?....

As a Canadian citizen, I generally don’t like to slam on my native land; I’ll definitely root for Team Canada come this Friday. But in terms of ridiculous government deadlock and partisanship, unfortunately, we have already claimed the gold medal.  

Which makes complaining about Congress feel a bit silly. 

TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images

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Iran: mistrust and verify

Writing about a new opinion poll suggesting that Iranians support their country's nuclear program, but not the development of atomic weapons, Robert Wright asks:

Why don’t we offer Iran something its public cherishes — the acknowledged right to enrich uranium — in exchange for radically more intrusive inspections, along with ratification of the additional protocol? A version of this idea has been advanced by a group of experts that was convened by the American Foreign Policy Project and co-chaired by former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and the aforementioned Gary Sick. It’s worth checking out.

I may be missing something here, but I believe this is very similar to what the United States has offered Iran, although not formally. We covered this issue on The Cable back in July, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a speech:

You have a right to pursue the peaceful use of civil nuclear power. You do not have a right to obtain a nuclear weapon. You do not have the right to have the full enrichment and reprocessing cycle under your control."

The key point here is that Iran's right to enrich isn't unconditional -- under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it has to prove that its intentions are peaceful. I don't know of too many experts who believe Iran has met that test. Another important question is whether Iran could regain its right to "full enrichment" if it does so. Wright says:

The closest such overture was a 2008 offer that would have imposed tougher inspections but denied Iran the right to enrich uranium as allowed under the N.P.T. until “the confidence of the international community in the exclusively peaceful nature of your nuclear program is restored” — which to the average Iranian means, “not until America says so.”

Well, what's the alternative? Just accept Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's good word? Mistrust, and verify, I say.

(Hat tip: Yglesias)