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Out of Time By: Douglas Stone
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Difficult, even tragic decisions are fast approaching in dealing with the Iranian nuclear program, as the Mullahocracy continues to enrich uranium while playing for time and threatening Israel and the United States.  With a window of less than three months before the Obama Administration takes office, it’s time to clear the decks and acknowledge realities that have been dangerously clouded by the wishful thinking of the left and a misleading National Intelligence Estimate (NIE).

Because of Iranian words and deeds, we have been forced to act on the assumption that they are driving hard to obtain a nuclear arsenal.

The Iranians know this but have not met their obligation even at this late hour to counter this impression, and for that reason the burden of proof has now shifted:  The moral, political and legal responsibility for violent confrontation has passed entirely to Teheran.  We have a right to take actions that will leave the Mullahs with the moral certitude that we will go to war, thereby upsetting the status quo and creating a new dynamic; or, if we reasonably believe at our discretion that they are about to go nuclear, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent their possession of nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately, we’re still in the thrall of an NIE of late last year that on its face seemed to indicate that the Iranians had abandoned a quest for nuclear weapons, even while overwhelming evidence now suggests the contrary.

Not surprisingly, The New York Times and the rest of the mainstream media refuse to accept what in the real world amounts to definitive new evidence of Iranian intentions, or the consensus outside the left that the NIE was at best misleading.  The media misrepresented the report as concluding that the Iranians had abandoned efforts to obtain nuclear weapons.  It says nothing of the kind; at best it’s a mass of contradictions that should have left intact skepticism about Iranian intentions.

The problems with the NIE need only the briefest rehearsal: that its authors may have been hoodwinked by an Iranian disinformation campaign; that the report argues a case instead of simply presenting facts and analysis; and, that it was at least partly authored by those who despise President Bush and his policies.

Moreover, critical conclusions of the NIE are couched in such unreassuring terms as “moderate-to-high confidence” even when implicating crucial issues of national security.  While the report concludes that the Iranians probably halted their program in 2003, it states with only “moderate confidence” that it hasn’t been restarted. 

What does it say about their intentions that, as the NIE concedes, they once had such a program?  Might the Iranians have purchased or otherwise obtained nuclear weapons?  Is it possible they simply stopped efforts to produce weapons pending completion of the most difficult part: the production of enriched uranium?

The NIE doesn’t explain why the Iranians purchased nuclear-capable missiles from North Korea or why allegedly civilian nuclear efforts are overseen by the Revolutionary Guard, declared a terrorist organization by Congress.

Beyond the NIE, there is now not only the Iranian refusal to negotiate seriously, but the U.S. Director of National Intelligence’s judgment that crucial NIE conclusions were erroneous; statements by the International Atomic Energy Agency (often hostile to the U.S.) that are even less sanguine than the NIE; and, a continuing belligerence of tone and rejection of Security Council disapprobation, and international norms and treaty obligations.

The New York Times and the rest of the left have decided that the solution is negotiations – as if that were a satisfactory end in and of itself, as opposed to merely a means to the end of derailing Iranian efforts.

One might question the need for negotiations if the Times’ take on the NIE were correct.  But we get no explanation from the Gray Lady, and despite its usual omniscience, it primly and disingenuously quotes both the claims of those who are convinced of the Iranians’ ill intentions and Iranian government denials.

Conveniently for Iranian hardliners, negotiations have dragged on for years and, as a result of sanctions, the Iranians have already willingly given up more in value than the West can yet further withhold; and more than President-elect Obama proposes as carrots and sticks to encourage Iranian compliance -- but all in any case nearly meaningless.  There is little or no chance that Russia or China will abandon their friend, and even vaunted banking sanctions will take years to bite and may yet be sloughed off by a very tough regime.

As perhaps a definitive word on Iranian intentions and as a suggestion of the dangerous folie de grandeur that marks this particular gang of tyrants, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has recently offered an arrogant and provocative fillip that Iran would continue to enrich uranium even if it were supplied with nuclear fuel for energy generation.

So much for a peaceful rationale for uranium enrichment.  People of good will and clarity of thought can only conclude that the Iranians are seeking nuclear weapons.  Equally important – and the reason that the Mullahs will be responsible for any war – is that the Iranians know this and yet continue on their dangerous path.

International law, not surprisingly, doesn’t address this novel situation.  But in many ways the imminent threat is akin to a military mobilization of the 19th or 20th centuries.  In and of itself only a preparation for war, mobilization was nevertheless considered an act of war, as failure to respond quickly -- and if necessary, violently -- would result in an overwhelming advantage to the enemy. 

However, even when dealing with a threat of low probability but devastating impact, one is obligated to err on the side of safety.  With Iran, the threat of at least nuclear blackmail is serious; the threat that they will use them significant; the impact of both potentially shattering.

As de facto guarantor of Israel and other allies in the Middle East, not to mention our own security, the U.S. cannot allow the gangsters in Teheran to obtain a nuclear arsenal.  It is no time to go wobbly.  The onus for war and all its misery has now shifted to the Iranians.  If they refuse our demands to halt their nuclear weapons program, we have the moral, political and legal right to force them to do so.

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