Have America and Israel suddenly gone soft on Iran's nefarious nuclear-weapons program? Despite sanctions and UN Security Council resolutions, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is gleefully pressing forward with his efforts to build a bomb, which Israeli military intelligence now believes he will succeed in doing by 2009. Indeed, just last Friday, the would-be Hitler of Persia boasted about how Teheran had "defied" Western opposition, and was now "moving toward the peaks of success step by step." Yet even as Iran continues to progress down the dangerous road to an atomic arsenal, the tough talk emanating from Washington and Jerusalem in recent months has suddenly and inexplicably melted away. And this should have us all very, very worried. It was just last month that US President George W. Bush declared at an October 17 press conference that, "If you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." Bush's statement was followed four days later by an equally emphatic Vice President Dick Cheney, who told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, "We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. Our country, and the entire international community, cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its grandest ambitions." Now, though, something appears to have changed. Various reports in recent days seem to indicate that US policy may have taken a sharp and terribly treacherous U-turn in the direction of acquiescence. According to the Britain's Sunday Telegraph, the US Defense Department has begun updating its deterrence policy based on the assumption that Iran will obtain nuclear weapons. The paper quoted a Pentagon adviser as saying that while "military strikes [against Iran's nuclear facilities] might set the program back a couple of yearsâ€¦ current thinking is that it is just not worth the risks." Similarly, Admiral William Fallon, head of US Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, told the Financial Times last week (Nov. 12) that a preemptive attack against Iranian nuclear installations is not "in the offing." And, as Reuters reported, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is said to have instructed cabinet officials to draft proposals for how to deal with "the day after" Iran obtains the bomb. WHAT IS going on here? Are we really prepared to allow the tyrant of Teheran to threaten our very existence? It is possible, of course, that these reports are merely part of the overall game-plan, and that they are aimed at lulling the Iranians into a false sense of security prior to a surprise attack on their nuclear installations. Alternatively, it might reflect the shifting political realities in the US, where public opinion, goaded on by the mainstream liberal media, has turned against the war in neighboring Iraq. But whatever the reality of the situation is, one thing should be clear: Iran can not and must not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons. This is not an issue with shades of grey - it is about as black and white as they come. And here are five good reasons why: 1. An Iranian nuclear arsenal would transform the strategic dynamic of the entire Middle East, shifting the balance of power squarely in the direction of radical Shi'ite fundamentalism. An atomic Iran will be able to threaten the region and the world with nuclear blackmail and destruction, and they will use that leverage to further their fanatical and revolutionary aims. 2. A nuclear-armed Iran will pose an existential threat to Israel, and ultimately to the West too. Iranian leaders have repeatedly and explicitly promised to wipe Israel off the map and to strike at the United States. Teheran has been backing up its words with actions by steadily improving its ballistic missile capability. The Shihab-3 missile, with a range of 1,200 km, can hit all of Israel as well as US military targets in the Middle East. Iran is busy developing the Shihab-4, with a range of 2,000 km, that will put parts of Europe within striking distance. Teheran is also striving to build even longer-range intercontinental missiles that can hit the US as well. All of these weapons have the ability to deliver atomic warheads. 3. If Iran goes nuclear, it will inevitably tilt the neighboring Arab states further in the direction of extremism, as they seek to mollify the nuclear-armed ayatollahs. Whatever limited chances there might be of drawing at least some Arab states into the moderate camp are likely to be stymied rather quickly. 4. Failure to take action against Teheran will trigger a region-wide nuclear arms race, as countries throughout the Middle East will seek to achieve strategic and military parity. A number of states, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have already announced plans to build their own nuclear power plants, and others will undoubtedly do so as well out of fear of being left behind. Permitting Iran to go nuclear essentially paves the way to a Middle East that will be brimming with atomic weapons. 5. If Iran were to develop "the bomb," what is to stop them from putting it into the hands of one of the myriad anti-Israel and anti-American terrorist groups that they support, such as Hizbullah or Islamic Jihad? Do we really want to take a chance that terrorists might at last be able to get their hands on nuclear weapons? This is not some "neocon nightmare scenario" or "warmonger wishful-thinking." It is the cold, hard reality staring us all squarely in the face, unless Washington or Jerusalem takes military action, and soon. CRITICS ARGUE that an attack on Iran would be logistically difficult, politically dangerous, and would result in some very serious consequences. But as former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton told the New York Times (November 9), "The choice is not between the world as it is today and the use of force. The choice is between the use of force and Iran with nuclear weapons." And when looked at in those terms, it becomes quite obvious that there really is no choice at all: the US and/or Israel must bomb Iran. They must act to remove the nuclear sword from the hand of the Persian executioner. And they should do so now - before it is too late.