Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The U.S. is Going It Alone in Iranian Nuclear Denial

Friday's Investor's Business Daily had a firm editorial indicating that the United States is essentially alone in its policy of seeking to deny nuclear capabilities to Iran, that missile defense is looking more and more workable and attractive, and that a possible preventive strike against Tehran's nuclear facilities should remain on the table:

The U.S. is bravely pushing ahead with sanctions against Iran. But why bother? Neither Europe, Russia nor China will agree to anything beyond a wrist slap. And Iran won't stop enriching uranium.

On July 31, the U.S. and its supposed allies passed U.N. Resolution 1696, which requires Iran to halt its uranium enrichment activities or face a series of mild economic sanctions. Iran was given until Thursday to stop. It didn't.

Instead, it issued declarations of defiance. "Exploitation of peaceful nuclear energy is our obvious right," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a rally Friday. "We'll never give up our legal right."

On one thing, he's correct: Peaceful use of nuclear energy is his nation's right. But Tehran's actions appear anything but peaceful.

Just last month, for example, it doubled output at a heavy-water enrichment plant. This lets Iran use unenriched uranium mined from within its borders — rather than having to buy it from others.

There's also the curious case of the Iranian government laptop computer obtained by the U.S. in 2004. It contained bomb designs and other technology clearly meant for weapons, not peace.

Then there's the strange, deep hole Tehran drilled earlier this year — a 400-meter shaft with special built-in sensors to measure heat and pressure and with only one logical use: to test a bomb.

Iran already has 18 nuclear sites, carefully placed around the country. It has hundreds of sophisticated P-1 and P-2 centrifuges — used to enrich uranium for bombs — and plans to have 3,000 in a few years. All this translates into a burgeoning nuclear capability.

The International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] recently warned that Iran's Isfahan nuclear facility had already turned 37 tons of "raw uranium . . . into uranium hexafluoride" — enough, experts say, for as many as six atomic bombs.

The U.S. believes another Iranian nuclear reactor, at Bushehr, could eventually produce enough plutonium a year for 30 bombs.

By the way, the IAEA — which has bent over backward to help Iran avoid sanctions — questioned in its final report Thursday "the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program."
With such evidence, where are our "allies"? Well, where they always are. "Diplomacy," said Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, speaking for the EU, "remains the No. 1 way forward."

Russia's no better. It "regrets" Iran's decision, but won't support sanctions. (It has big contracts to build nuclear plants in Iran.) Ditto China, which imports huge amounts of energy from Iran.

That leaves us. Faced with Iran's clear intent and our allies' failure of will, what can we do? Plenty. And we're already doing it.

U.N. Ambassador John Bolton is pushing ahead with sanctions — as much, we suppose, to shame our feckless allies as to punish Iran.

Perhaps more important, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency on Friday announced it successfully shot down a streaking warhead over the Pacific with a ground-based missile defense system. This, the Pentagon said, gives us a "good chance" to shoot down a North Korean nuclear missile.

Missile defense is looking better all the time. A workable system may take a couple of years to complete, so there's no time to lose. By then, Iran might have a nuke.

Before that, we might have to strike first — and decimate a nuclear threat the world should have never allowed in the first place.

I blogged about America's approach to Iranian proliferation in May, citing Victor Davis Hanson's essay suggesting that soon enough President Ahmedinejad's aggressive actions would convince the U.S. and Europe that preventive action would necessary.

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