Iran Shihab miss 298.88.
(photo credit: Channel 2)
On June 6, the US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany presented Iran with a package of carrots and sticks relating to its nuclear program, including the possibility of direct talks with the US.
The US said Iran had "weeks, not months" to respond, and later indicated that Iran had to respond by today, July 12, in time for President George Bush's arrival on Thursday in Germany and then in Russia for the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg.
Iran has rejected this deadline and claims it will respond by late August, though a partial Iranian response is possible in an effort to divide the nations meeting at the G-8 summit.
Yesterday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was clear enough: "In the face of the venomous campaign of malicious people, we'll not step back one iota... the Iranian people are standing tall on their way to access their full rights and complete use of the nuclear fuel cycle."
Even if the Iranian regime changes tack again and, at the last minute, starts sounding more conciliatory, the situation is clear and has been for years, ever since the regime was caught cheating on pledges not to enrich uranium: The mullahs are determined to build a nuclear bomb, and are daring the world to try and stop them.
Though the carrot-and-stick package is designed to determine whether Iran wants a bomb or just nuclear power, Western governments fully understand that the world's fourth largest oil producer is not seeking another source of energy. So the test that has been posed to Iran is really not of the mullahs, whose ambitions are quite clear and consistent, but of the international community itself.
In particular, it is a test of the will and diplomatic skills of the leader of the free world, President Bush. On Thursday, he will visit the constituency of Chancellor Angela Merkel in Stralsund, in northeast Germany and join her for a "casual social dinner" at Trinwillershagen, a former East German model cooperative. The following day Bush will join President Vladimir Putin and his wife for a "social dinner" in Strelna, Russia.
On Monday, after the G-8 leaders hold working meetings over the weekend, other world leaders, including President Hu Jintao of China, will join the gathering. All the players will be in place for decisions to be made on whether Iran will be stopped, and if so, how.
This, in other words, is it. The point of no return - a phrase that is often used in relation to Iran's nuclear program but that also applies to Western diplomatic efforts - has been reached. This is the last best chance to quickly embark on a path of non-military sanctions of sufficient intensity to force Iran to capitulate without firing a shot.
Though there is much doubt whether this path will be taken, there should be no doubt that it exists. The nations attending the summit in Russia can impose diplomatic and economic sanctions that would be draconian enough to threaten the survival of the Iranian regime, giving it a strong incentive to abandon both its nuclear program and its support for terrorism.
There are, of course, no guarantees that even powerful sanctions, such as ending all diplomatic contacts, banning travel and visas, and cutting off Iran's refined oil imports, would force Teheran to verifiably dismantle its nuclear program and forswear terrorism, as Libya has done. What is guaranteed is that, in the absence of such sanctions, the West will be left with only two choices: a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities or living with the consequences of a nuclear Iran.
The latter option is unacceptable, not only to Israel, which would face a threat to its existence, but to the free world, which would face the threat of terrorist attacks that would dwarf 9/11 and the reality of the international terror network's primary sponsor gaining nuclear immunity for its ongoing campaign of aggression.
The 9/11 attacks and those that have followed demonstrate that the free world faces an Islamist jihad that recognizes no moral compunctions and seeks to dominate the world. The free world must defend itself. The longer we wait, the higher the cost of this defense will be, and the more innocent lives will be unnecessarily lost.
The time to stop Iran is now.