Too late to stop Iran, so let’s crack down on Israel

Iran is clearly confident enough in America’s ability to hold Israel back from striking its nuclear sites that it is staying defiant and evasive about its nuclear  program.

Barack Obama’s histrionics at the UN and G20 and his ‘threats’ of conrontation over Iran’s concealment of its nuclear capabilities – were water off a duck’s back for Tehran, whose nuclear weapons program has gone too far to stop by words or even sanctions.

The Islamic regime only responded with more defiance, announcing that its second uranium enrichment plant near Qom would become operational soon.

The US president’s tough words and willingness to step out of his axiomatic insistence on dialogue and turn to economic warfare against Iran may be impressive but it is no longer effective. Tehran is too close to its goal of a nuclear weapons capability to be deterred by offers of engagement or economic penalties.

Obama understands that Iran is now unstoppable except by force. His performance was therefore directed at another target: Israel, whom he is determined to dissuade from resorting to military action against Iran’s nuclear installations.

Defense secretary Robert Gates hit the nail on the head when he said Friday: “The reality is there is no military option that does anything more than buy time. The estimates are one to three years or so.” In any case, Israeli leaders argued, Iran’s nuclear ambitions were a threat to the whole world and it was therefore incumbent on the “international community” to take care of them.

This of course did not happen. Iran carried on exploiting international inaction, finally capitalizing on Obama’s foot-dragging in his first nine months in office. By now, Iran has used the gift of time to process enough enriched uranium to fuel two nuclear bombs and is able to produce another two per year. Its advanced medium-range missiles will be ready to deliver nuclear warheads by next year.

Caught red-handed yet again in massive deceit, the Iranian president Mahdmoud Ahmadinejad had only more defiance to offer. America owes his government an apology, he told interviewers in New York Friday, because the new plant would not be operational for 18 months, and Tehran had therefore not violated International Atomic Energy Agency rules requiring notification.

Saturday, the Iranian news agency was informed by an aide of supreme leader Ali Khamenei that “the new plant would become operational soon.” Iran’s published concealments and deceptions are disquieting enough. But a whole lot more are undoubtedly buried in fat intelligence dossiers on Iran’s nuclear program – plutonium production, for instance.

Sarkozy was clearly thinking about those undiscovered Iranian secrets and evasions when he declared in Pittsburgh: “Everything – everything must be put on the table now” (at the October 1 meeting of the Six Powers with Iranian negotiators). Obama too urged Iran “to come clean.”

All the powers concerned – the US, Russia, France, Germany the UK and even China – have the same information as Israel and are fully aware that Iran has already crossed a number of red lines this year and will cross more in 2010.

The more time allowed for diplomacy and engagement, the greater Tehran’s defiance. Meanwhile, world powers will argue – not over futile sanctions, but on how to stop Israel, so wasting several more months. DEBKA

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