Loose Canons

A Fuse Burning Short

New bombshell: even lefties agree Iran is building a bomb. Why is the International Atomic Energy Agency suddenly in denial?

By 11.16.03

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Two months ago, I characterized Iran as one of the two burning fuses we have been handed. Not only is Iran a wealthy and powerful terrorist state, it has dedicated itself to developing nuclear weapons. Of one thing we can be sure: if Iran has nuclear weapons, soon too will the terrorists with whom it has common cause.

There were false signals of Iranian moderation. Many experts, some of whom I have the greatest respect for, are convinced that Iran will calibrate its actions to the strength of the international response. The EU nations' apparent success in obtaining Iranian cooperation with international inspections -- which wasn't going to succeed in any event -- has now been tossed aside by the international agency responsible for such inspections.

The ever-blind International Atomic Energy Agency has reported that there is "no evidence" that Iran's nuclear program is really a weapons program. This, despite Iran's eighteen-year record of deception and documented violations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Why bother with intensive new inspections if there is no evidence to pursue? That, of course, will be Dominique de Villepin's next speech. But odd as it may seem, after Foggy Bottom's incoherence on Saddam's WMD programs, the clearest voice on Iran is coming straight from there.

It is appropriate to judge a man by those who choose to be his enemies, and his friends. I don't know who Under Secretary of State John Bolton calls "friend", but as Bob Tyrrell pointed out, introducing Bolton at last week's American Spectator dinner, Bolton has enemies we all would be proud to call foe. Domestically, there are the usual nuisances, such as Barbara Boxer and Joe Biden. Internationally, Bolton has attracted the first team. For example, when he stated the obvious fact that Kim Jong-il's North Korean regime makes life hell for its impoverished subjects, the Dear Leader responded by barring Bolton from talks on North Korea's nuke program. The NK news agency, on August 4, said of Bolton, "Such human scum and bloodsucker is not entitled to take part in the talks." He should expect equally kind words from Iran, for his trouble in pointing out some simple truths.

Bolton pointed out that three reports of the IAEA's director general (Mohammed al Baradei, he who was Blix's bestest pal in Iraq) have said that Iran is in violation of the Nuclear NPT. That, in Bolton's blunt assessment, made the new report that there was no evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran "impossible to believe." That, as Bolton pointed out, wasn't just his opinion. He cited a couple of experts who share his view.

Such as Thomas Cochran, of the National Resources Defense Council, by any assessment not a wild-eyed conservative. Cochran said that "it's dumbfounding that the IAEA, after saying that Iran for 18 years had a secret effort to enrich uranium and separate plutonium, would turn around and say there was no evidence of a nuclear weapons program. If that's not evidence, I don't know what is." Peaceful uses for plutonium have yet to be discovered.

And that's not all. Bolton cited former Clintonista Gary Samore, of the Brit International Institute of Strategic Studies, who said, "this is unquestionably a bomb program." Bolton suggests that if Iran doesn't come clean the international community should declare it in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. So if you have the right and the moderate-to-hard left in agreement, what is there left to say and do? Plenty.

Iran and North Korea either have, or are about to have, nuclear weapons. Libya, as one source told me, may obtain nuclear weapons by purchase sooner than by development. The NK's are more than capable, as Iran is, of selling them to terrorist organizations. Both nations have, and continue to develop, ballistic missiles capable of delivering these weapons. The Pakistanis, whose nuclear weapons program was financed by Saudi Arabia, may now be under pressure to station some of those weapons inside Saudi Arabia, where they would be in minutes of Israel.

This Thursday, the IAEA governors will meet to discuss the new report. Their report, in turn, will be submitted to the U.N. Security Council, which will be glad to talk about it for another decade or two. Iran, already threatening "unpredictable consequences" if it is found in violation of the Treaty, is using the IAEA report to test the EU nations that came to the earlier inspections accord. We should use it for the same purpose.

Those who assess Iran clearly don't believe we have that much time. Nuclear proliferation is something we have to deal with, but proliferation to terrorists, and terrorist states, we cannot allow. The EU nations, as afraid of their own Muslim populations as they are of Iran, are no force for the Iranians to reckon with. We must be.

The short-term answer to Iran must be an agreement between our real allies, those few NATO nations that still see the alliance as a means of keeping the peace, to take whatever steps necessary to deny Iran the bomb. Trade embargoes, as well as military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities, must be planned and implemented in stages. We can't allow the bad guys to doubt our intent or our resolve. Strength, intent, and resolve. Those factors -- and the willingness to act -- are the differences between winning and losing this war.

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About the Author
Jed Babbin served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. He is the author of several bestselling books including Inside the Asylum and In the Words of Our Enemies. He is coauthor (with Herbert London) of the new book The BDS War Against Israel. You can follow him on Twitter@jedbabbin.