Over the past few weeks evidence has piled up that Iran is not years away from being capable of building nuclear bombs at will. It is months away. As the latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency on Teheran's nuclear program makes clear, at its present rate of uranium enrichment, Iran will have sufficient quantities of enriched uranium to build two atomic bombs by February.
What is most notable about this IAEA finding is that it comes in a report that does everything possible to cover up Iran's progress and intentions.
Israel responded angrily to the report, alleging that the agency's outgoing director, Mohamed ElBaradei, suppressed information that confirms the military nature of Iran's program. In a statement released last Saturday, the Foreign Ministry alleged that the report "does not reflect the entirety of the information the IAEA holds on Iran's efforts to advance their military program, nor their continued efforts to conceal and deceive and their refusal to cooperate with the IAEA and the international community."
Two weeks before the IAEA released its report, the US State Department published its assessment that Iran won't have the wherewithal to develop a bomb until 2013. According The Washington Post, this conclusion is based on the State Department's analysis of Iran's "technical capability."
For all its failures, the latest IAEA report puts the lie to this State Department assessment.
Moreover, as a recent study by Israeli missile expert Uzi Rubin shows, Iran already has several delivery options for its burgeoning nuclear arsenal. In a report published by The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Rubin, who has been awarded the Israel Defense Prize and oversaw the development of Israel's Arrow missile defense system, concludes that Iran today has the capacity to develop solid-fuel-based intermediate ballistic missiles with a range of 3,600 kilometers. That is, today, Iran has the capacity to attack not only Israel and other states in the Middle East. Since its successful test of its solid-fuel based Sejil missile in May, it has the demonstrated capacity to attack Europe as well.
Furthermore, Teheran's successful upgrade of its ballistic missiles to satellite launchers has given it the capacity to launch nuclear weapons into the atmosphere. This renders Iran capable of launching an electromagnetic pulse attack from sea against just about any country. An EMP attack can destroy a state's electromagnetic grid and thus take a 21st-century economy back to the pre-industrial era. Such an attack on the US, for instance, would cripple the American economy, and render the US government at all levels incapable of restoring order or preventing mass starvation.
THESE LATEST disclosures should focus the attention of Israel's leaders on a singular question: What can Israel do to prevent Iran from further expanding its nuclear capacity and block it from emerging as a nuclear power?
The answer to this question is the same as it has been for the past six years, since the scale of Teheran's nuclear program was first revealed. Israel can order the Israel Air Force to bomb Iran's nuclear and missile facilities with the aim of denying Iran the ability to attack the Jewish state.
The necessity for Israel to exercise its one option grows daily in light of what the rest of the world is doing in regards to Iran. Following the release of the IAEA report and ahead of the UN General Assembly's opening meeting later this month, this week US, German, British, French, Russian and Chinese diplomats met in Germany to discuss the possibility of ratcheting up Security Council sanctions against Iran. Ahead of the meeting, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel both announced that they support stronger sanctions.
But right on schedule, as the representatives of these countries sat down with one another, the Iranians told the media they are interested in negotiating. Suddenly, after stonewalling for more than a year, Teheran is willing to think about telling us the terms under which it will discuss the West's offer to provide the mullahs with all manner of rewards in exchange for an Iranian agreement to suspend the expansion of its of uranium enrichment, (which, as the IAEA report notes, is already great enough to produce two nuclear bombs by February).
Taking their cue from the mullahs, the Russians and the Chinese are now saying that there is no reason to be hasty. Far wiser, in their view, would be a decision to sit down and see what the Iranians would like to do. No doubt, the Russians and Chinese are arguing that it will take some time - perhaps until February - to arrange such a meeting. And then, there is the prospect that such a meeting could end inconclusively but keep the door open for further talks sometime in late-2010 or early 2011. In the meantime, as far as the Russians and the Chinese are concerned, further UN sanctions would be unfair in light of Iran's willingness to engage diplomatically.
But then even if the Russians and the Chinese supported stronger sanctions, the measure now being debated will have no impact on either Iran's ability or willingness to become a nuclear power. Today these leading nations are discussing the prospect of banning refined petroleum imports into Iran. Given that Iran, with its currently limited capacity to refine petroleum, is a net oil importer, for the past several years, the notion of banning the Iranian imports of refined petroleum products has been raised every time the IAEA submitted a report on Iran's nuclear program and every time more information came out describing its spectacular progress in missile development and uranium enrichment. Inevitably, this talk was dismissed the moment a mullah approached a microphone and hinted that Iran might be interested in cutting a deal.
But while the West has consistently postponed imposing such sanctions, the Islamic republic has taken the prospect seriously. Over the past four years, Iran moved to reduce its vulnerability to such a ban. It has required citizens to adapt their cars to run on natural gas, which Iran has in abundance. Furthermore, in a joint venture with China, Teheran has launched a crash program to expand its domestic oil refining capabilities. With Chinese assistance, Iran is expected to have the refining capacity to meet its domestic needs by 2012.
Beyond that, as former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton noted this week in The Wall Street Journal, even if the West were to impose such sanctions on Iran today, they would not impact the Iranian military's ability to operate. The only people who would be impacted by such sanctions are Iranian civilians.
Here, too, it should be noted that the entire rationale of the ban on refined oil imports to Iran is that oil shortages will turn the public against the regime and the regime in turn will be forced to stand down against the international community in order to placate its gasoline-starved constituents. But if the regime's brutal repression of its opponents in the wake of the stolen June 12 presidential elections tells us anything, it tells us that the regime doesn't care about what the Iranian public thinks of it. Indeed, in the face of rising domestic opposition to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the regime's best bet may be to launch a war against the hated Jews in order to unify the clerical leadership - which is now split between those supporting the regime and those supporting the opposition - behind the regime.
Finally, the discussion of sanctions is irrelevant because every move that Iran is making shows that the regime is determined to go to war. Its massive diversion of resources to its nuclear and ballistic missile program shows that the regime is absolutely committed to becoming a nuclear power. Its move to build an open military alliance with the Lebanese government, together with its expansion of its military ties to Syria through the financing of the sale of advanced Russian aircraft to Damascus and the proliferation of nuclear technology, shows that it is building up the capabilities of its underlings. Then, too, this week's report that the Hizbullah weapons cache in southern Lebanon which exploded in July contained chemical weapons indicates that Iran is already providing its terror proxies with nonconventional arsenals to expand its war-making capabilities against Israel and the West.
ALL IN all, the totality of Iran's moves make clear that it is not interested in using its nuclear program as a bargaining chip to gain all manner of goodies from the West. It is planning to use its nuclear program as a means of becoming a nuclear power. And it wishes to become a nuclear power because it wishes to wage war against its enemies.
And all in all, the totality of the UN-led international community's responses to Teheran's moves make clear that the world will take no effective action to prevent Iran from gaining the capacity to wage nuclear war. The world today will again do nothing to prevent the genocide of Jewry.
And that's the thing of it. So long as the mullahs continue to signal that the Jews are their first target, the world will be content to allow them to build their nuclear weapons and to use them. As US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's contention that the US will retaliate against Iran if it launches a nuclear attack against Israel makes clear, Washington will only consider acting against Teheran after the US moves to the top of Teheran's target list.
The question then is whether Israel has the ability to effectively attack Iran even if the US opposes such a strike. Based on open source material, the answer to this central question is yes, Israel can launch an effective strike against Iran.
Over the past several years, the IAF has demonstrated that it has the power-projection capability to reach Iran's nuclear installations, strike and return home. The key nuclear installations have been visited by IAEA inspectors. They are not hundreds of meters underground. They are not invulnerable to ordnance Israel already possesses. They can be destroyed or at least severely impaired.
The route to Iran is also open. Various leaked reports indicate that Saudi Arabia has given Israel a green light to overfly its airspace en route to Iran.
Finally, consistent polling data shows that the Israeli public understands the need for a strike and would be willing to accept whatever consequences flow in its wake. The public will support a government decision to strike even if the strike is not a one-off like the 1981 IAF strike that destroyed Iraq's Osirak reactor. The public will support the government even if the strike precipitates a condemnation by the US and a resumption of hostilities with Lebanon and even with Syria.
With each passing day, Iran moves closer to the bomb and closer to initiating war on its terms. The international community will do nothing to preempt this danger. Israel must act. Fighting a war on our terms is eminently preferable to fighting one on Iran's.