Today's Blogs

Putin His Foot Down

Bloggers wonder why Russia is really withholding nuclear fuel from Iran. They also discuss what makes Patrick Fitzgerald less than “distinguished” and assess the damage of Mitt Romney’s Miami gaffe.

Putin his foot down: Russia issued an ultimatum that it will stop shipping materials for Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor unless the Islamic republic complies with U.N demands that it cease enriching uranium. But, as the announcement comes after a dispute over payments, bloggers wonder what is really fueling the face-off.

Ed Morrissey at Captain’s Quarters calls it a “repudiation of the mullahcracy” and speculates on behind-the-scenes maneuvering: “Some other pressure point must have been hit by the West. Perhaps someone mentioned Russia’s G-8 status, or maybe other commercial issues got worked in Putin’s favor. What is obvious is that Ahmadinejad placed all his eggs in the Russian nuclear basket, and for the moment he has come up empty.” Conservative Marcie at Running the Gauntlet concurs: “Seriously, Russia floated Saddam Hussein for years. The same goes for France and Germany. Why the mad rush for Putin to be paid when he sat in limbo for at least a couple of years with Saddam?”

Stanford researcher Pavel Podvig at the blog of the research project Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces calls the Times article “sloppy”: “The ultimatum story may well be true, although Igor Ivanov [secretary of the Russian Security Council] doesn’t strike me as a person who would deliver a strongly-worded ultimatum - more likely it was more of an advice and explanation of the reasons behind the recent delays with fuel shipment.”

And at TNR’s The Plank, Bradford Plumer flags a Bloomberg report in which Russian officials asserts that the Times’ claim that Russia issued an ultimatum “does not correspond to reality.” “This wording was never used,” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tells Bloomberg. “Ivanov discussed with his Iranian counterpart some issues relating to Bushehr concerning the financial debt of the Iranian side.”

Former Marine and self-proclaimed idealist Westhawk doesn’t see how Ahmadinejad can wriggle out of this one. Given how strongly he asserted Iran would never suspend enrichment at Natanz, it will be hard for him to renege on his promise: “Iran will now have to choose which outcome is worse, domestic embarrassment for the regime or a conspicuous hardening in the global alliance against its nuclear program.”

At conservative HotAir, Allahpundit points out Iran may still be able to develop nukes on its own—it will just take longer: “Doesn’t Iran enrich its own uranium at Natanz? Why, yes — but it’s still a few years away from being able to enrich it highly enough to make a bomb, which means any bomb in the meantime would likely come from Bushehr. Can a bomb be made out of the nuclear fuel that Russia had planned to send to them for the Bushehr reactor? Why, yes, by extracting plutonium from the fuel after it’s spent — which is why Russia’s always insisted that Iran return all of the spent fuel to them.”

Read more about Russia’s smackdown.

It’s Pat! A 3,000-page document dump by the Justice Department reveals that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald was ranked somewhere between loyal Bush followers and “weak” attorneys who had “chafed against Administration initiatives.” The rankings were drawn up by Kyle Sampson, the recently resigned chief of staff to Alberto Gonzales, while Fitzgerald was prosecuting the case against former Cheney chief of staff Scooter Libby. Bloggers probe yet another layer of the U.S. attorneys flap.

Jeff Fecke at Blog of the Moderate Left notes that Fitzgerald has “gone after corruption on both sides with equal vigor”: “When Alberto Gonzales is forced from office–and the hour is growing late–Patrick Fitzgerald would make a fine Attorney General.  Not because I know he’s a Democrat or liberal or a perfect fit for me poltiically–but because I don’t know that.  It would be nice to have an Attorney General who simply was an honest, straightforward, and ethical prosecutor.”

At From On High, Jerry Fuhrman isn’t quite sure what all the fuss is about: “U.S. attorney Fitzgerald was fired for … well, no he wasn’t fired. … U.S. attorney Fitzgerald was reprimanded for … well, no he wasn’t reprimanded either. … U.S. attorney Fitzgerald was demoted … uh. U.S. attorney Fitzgerald was disinvited to the Knicks game? … No. U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s name was on a list of names of U.S. attorneys.”

Late Monday night, Paul Kiel at TPM Muckraker summoned the might of citizen journalists to sift the 3,000 pages of DOJ documents. The result is a massive comment thread of page-by-page analysis. Take a look if you have a few days to burn.

Read more about Patrick Fitzgerald’s “not distinguished” ranking. Slate’s Alberto Gonzales Deathwatch measures how near the end is.

Romney revolution: Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney signed off during a speech in Miami with Fidel Castro’s famous rallying cry, “Patria o muerte, venceremos!” Romney asserted that dictators like Castro and Hugo Chávez had tried to steal the phrase, which he said “belongs to a free Cuba,” but the Boston Herald reports that listeners were offended by the appropriation.

Anti-Castro blogger Val Prieto at BabaluBlog puts it simply: “Mitt Romney Loses 2008 Florida Vote, in 2007.” James Joyner at Outside the Beltway disagrees: “[T]he fact that this is just making the Miami papers ten days after the speech is probably a pretty fair indication that it’s not that big a deal.”

Strange Women Lying in Ponds takes a sober look at the context of the remark, pointing out that reading the full speech “casts his use of the offending phrase in a very different light.”

At There Is No Blog, thereisnospoon speculates that “Romney can, of course, recover from this: it’s still quite early in the race, and Romney doesn’t need to get Florida to win the GOP primary. Still, it will be amusing to watch him try to explain this gaffe away–and it will harm his credibility even further as a politico trying to be all things to all people.”

Read more about Romney’s gaffe.