Tragically for the people of Iran, the Obama Administration’s efforts to engage that country are likely to end in failure. In the aftermath of the June 12 popular uprising against the rigged presidential elections, the leadership in Teheran has purged itself of moderate elements. Washington is trying to negotiate with the most revolutionary, anti-American, pro-nuclear government that Iran has had in almost twenty years. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, said this week that negotiating with the United States would be “naive and perverted.” Iranian politicians, he declared, should not be “deceived” into starting such talks.
Yet, the White House is so fixated on getting a nuclear deal with Iran that it is willing to throw under the bus the hundreds of thousands of Iranians who went into the streets last week. The Obama Administration’s silence on the emergence of street democracy in Teheran does it no credit at home and will earn it no points with Ahmadinejad or the ayatollahs.
Even while negotiating to send some of its low-enriched uranium out of the country for reprocessing, Iran was speeding up its nuclear activities. Production at one of that country’s uranium mines has increased significantly in recent months, providing material that could be used to build at least two atomic bombs a year. According to one nonproliferation expert, “Iran’s decision to expand mining and milling at Bandar Abbas seems to validate the suspicions of those who think it was the main uranium site for a covert program.” Other experts on the Iranian nuclear program believe that between now and the end of the year, using just its declared centrifuges, Iran could easily produce enough low-enriched uranium to provide the basic material for at least one nuclear weapon.
Most recently, we have a serious report from The Guardian that Iran has successfully replicated the design for an advanced nuclear warhead, one capable of being placed on Iranian ballistic missiles that could reach Israel. Add to these facts the undeclared nuclear site at Qom plus credible reports of additional secret nuclear weapons installations and it is seems clear that Iran is speeding down the road towards acquiring nuclear weapons.
Nor is Iranian intransigence the only problem with the Obama strategy. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that his country would not support an intensified sanctions regime. According to Lavrov, even the threat of sanctions would be counterproductive. Apparently Russian leaders feel no need to pay back Obama for cancelling a missile-defense site in Eastern Europe.
Ultimately, the only way of impacting the Iranian nuclear program will be with bombs. The Obama Administration will have no stomach for such a plan. This will leave it up to Israel. Can anyone believe that Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, would not order such an attack if peaceful resolution of the crisis proved impossible?
Whatever success an Israeli attack might have in setting back Iran’s nuclear program, one almost certain outcome is that Teheran will retaliate not only against Israel, but against the United States, the Great Satan. The United States must begin preparing now for a war in the Persian Gulf that could come as early as late 2010.
Consequently, the U.S. needs to improve its defensive capabilities in the region. The recently concluded missile defense exercise with Israel was one good step. But the Pentagon can do other things. For example, it needs to press forward more aggressively with its plans to equip surface ships with the Aegis ballistic missile defense system. For the longer term, there is the program to deploy that same Aegis missile defense ashore. In addition, the Navy should consider contingency plans to rapidly expand its limited mine-countermeasures capability in the Persian Gulf. This would involve sending the available mine-warfare modules being developed for the Littoral Combat Ship to the region.
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