Iran has significantly increased its stockpile of a purer form of enriched uranium that is closer to weapons grade, according to the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, and has begun to produce it at a fortified mountain site seen as potentially immune from a military strike.
The International Atomic Energy Agency on Friday also reported that Iranian officials continue to rebuff the agency’s calls to explain growing evidence that shows Tehran has experimented in developing the technologies for atomic weapons. . . .
The report on Iran’s nuclear advances rattled international oil markets on Friday and intensified fears in the international community that the country is moving closer to a nuclear-weapons capability, something Tehran denies it wants.
By blocking the IAEA’s mission, Tehran also cast doubt on Western hopes for a resumption of negotiations on the nuclear issue in the coming weeks.
Let me put it more succinctly: President Obama’s Iran policy has failed.
In the Arizona debate last week, Mitt Romney made the case that of all the foreign policy flubs nothing “is as serious a failure as his failure to deal with Iran appropriately.” He said, “ This president — this president should have put in place crippling sanctions against Iran, he did not. He decided to give Russia — he decided to give Russia their number one foreign policy objective, removal of our missile defense sites from Eastern Europe and got nothing in return. He could have gotten crippling sanctions against Iran. He did not. When dissident voices took to the street in Iran to protest a stolen election there, instead of standing with them, he bowed to the election.” He continued with his indictment: “[President Obama] has made it clear through his administration in almost every communication we’ve had so far, that he does not want Israel to take action. That he opposes military action. This is a president who should have instead communicated to Iran that we are prepared, that we are considering military options. They’re not just on the table. They are in our hand. We must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. If they do, the world changes. America will be at risk. And some day, nuclear weaponry will be used.”
I asked Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who has worked strenuously to develop and advocate for sanctions, where he thought we now stood and whether Israel should doubt Obama’s resolve. He e-mailed me, “If I was an Israeli, I’d be deeply afraid. You have a U.S. intelligence community which believes that [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei bases his decision making with respect to an Iranian atomic weapon on a risk-reward calculus, that he has not decided to build this weapon, that sanctions will deter him, and that their sources are so good inside Iran that we know what makes this man tick and will be able to detect when he gives the green light to weaponize.”
He continued, arguing we were asking an awful lot of Israel: “So, despite a history of incorrect predictions of atomic weapons programs — the Soviet Union, China, India, Pakistan, Iraq, et al. — we are asking the Israelis to trust us. We will get it right this time. And, if we don’t, well not to worry we are sure that the regime is too rational to risk its demise just to bring about yours.” As for sanctions, he argued that after three years it does not appear that we do “want to use economic and political warfare to really do what is necessary to bring down this regime in case we miss an opportunity to get the decades-old elusive deal which is always just a concession or two away. We only seriously began a few months ago to implement the crippling sanctions that were promised a few years ago and now we are rushing to crush their oil sector, freeze them out of the international financial system and plunge them into an economic crisis to that they will relent.” He leaves open the possibility that “the old Islamist revolutionary who has spent a lifetime committed to destroying Israel, and probably thinks a world without America is achievable, will cry uncle in the face of stagflation and a threat to his oil wealth.” But he suggests now “it’s time to face reality that no deal is possible with this regime, that sanctions designed to persuade Khamenei to relent were always a delusion, and that we now need to commit the full weight of the United States, economic warfare, political warfare, and yes, military too if necessary, to the end of this regime.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is coming to Washington next week for the annual AIPAC convention and to meet with Obama. I am about as optimistic that Obama will provide ironclad assurances about America’s use of a military action if needed as Dubowitz is that the mullahs will cry “uncle” — that is, not at all. We are now reaching the point at which no Israeli prime minister, calculating the progress of Iran’s nuclear program, the reticence of the U.S. president and understanding a reelected Obama will be even less likely to be responsive to Israel’s security needs, can afford to wait much longer before acting unilaterally.
Had Obama imposed those crippling sanctions years ago or aided the Green Movement, we would all be in a different position. But having failed to lead, Obama is now no longer in control of events. He and Tehran may try a diplomatic minuet to stall military action, but Israel can be expected to tolerate only so much risk before acting to defend its existence. It is both frightening and deplorable that Israel, rather than the U.S., is now the most reliable guarantor of two American presidents’ promise that Iran will not be permitted to go nuclear.
UPDATE (11:20 a.m.): Fred Kagan an Maseh Zarif have a must-read piece in the Wall Street Journal that argues: “Americans are being played for fools by Iran—and fooling themselves. There is no case to be made that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapons capability. There is no evidence that Iran’s decision-makers are willing to stop the nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions or anything else. . . . Those who oppose military action against Iran under any circumstances must say so, and must accept the consequences of that statement. Those who advocate military action must also accept and consider the consequences—regional and possibly global conflict and all of the associated perils of war. But neither American nor Israeli nor any Western interest is served by lying to ourselves and pretending the predicament will go away.”