The assault on the British embassy in Tehran, following the Iranian sponsored-attempt to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., and the grand Ayatollah's (Khamenei) arrest of President Ahmadinejad's entire official staff, must surely complete the satisfaction of everyone that Iran is governed by lunatics that must not be allowed nuclear toys to play with.
Even the countries that have happily played footsie with the Iranians as they have progressed toward nuclear capability, Pakistan, Russia and China, must now have realized that the joke is not humorous and must end here.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has steadily documented the Iranian violations of their undertakings not to develop a nuclear military capacity. Even the former director of the IAEA, Mohamed Elbaradei, who has now metamorphosed into an acceptable Islamist for the purposes of the Egyptian protesters, and who gave the Iranians a gentle ride for years, ended by criticizing them quite unambiguously.
Consecutive IAEA reports demonstrate that the Stuxnet computer virus had only a marginal impact on the program; that enough low-enriched uranium for four bombs has been developed; that advanced centrifuges are being deployed, permitting faster enrichment than was possible under the first phase of the program, which was based on what had been acquired from the notorious Pakistani supplier, Dr. Khan. This development demonstrates again, as so often before, the porosity of sanctions. The latest IAEA report states that Iran has conducted advanced research on a miniaturized warhead that could be fitted in intermediate range missiles. Russia, loyal to its commercial contacts with Iran and its pathological ambition to irritate America, has been dismissive of the IAEA report, but it is not so relaxed about attacks on embassies in terrorism-supporting Islamic states.
The IAEA believes that Iran will be able to triple production at its underground facility near Qum, a city best known up to now for fine carpets and fundamentalist Islamic theology. The Obama administration entered office aiming for a grand bargain of reconciliation with Iran, and in furtherance of it, effectively ignored the false Iranian election and the brutalization of the public that followed in weeks of general disorder and the crudest intimidation of the masses by the bully boys of the regime, which did not dare test the loyalty of the army on the issue of crushing the people.
Sanctions have never worked and smack still of the impotent loquacity and empty gesturing of the League of Nations, (which only actually imposed them briefly on Japan and then, in 1939, on the USSR over the invasion of Finland, and after the world was already at war). They were almost ineffective against South Africa and even the tiny white minority in Rhodesia. They failed completely against Milosevic's Serbia, were almost useless against Saddam Hussein, and there are always plenty of venal and hypocritical countries (such as France and the United Nations itself in the case of Iraq), who are happy to ignore sanctions, even if they have officially signed on to them, in the interests of enhanced profit to themselves.
The United States planned a comprehensive missile-defence system, which the Russians, for their own purposes and in keeping with their imperishable ambition to try to exercise an influence to which their shrunken and ramshackle post-Soviet state does not now entitle them, have chosen to regard as directed against them. This is a defensive system and the Russians have no business insisting on possession of a defence-proof first-strike nuclear capability against the West. But as part of the "reset" process with that country, the U.S., in another unrequited gesture, has shifted the system largely to sea deployment and to the Middle Eastern sites emphasizing that Iran is the principal subject of the deployment.
We are paying for America's extreme derogation from the normal Great Power practice of dealing directly and forcefully with such provocations and outlawry as Iran's. This goes back to President Carter's shameful mistreatment of the Shah, a reliable ally and relatively progressive leader; to his helpless response to the embassy hostage-taking; and to President Reagan's mad indulgence in the Iran-Contra blackmail.
Regime change can be left to the Iranians when their elites, disintegrated though they have been by oppression and dispersal abroad, tire of this nostalgic theocratic misadventure into Middle Ages Islam. But the nuclear capability has to be destroyed soon. Iran has highlighted the hypocrisy of the official arms control system, which requires the nuclear powers to try to disarm, which of course they have not done since the Soviet rejection of President Eisenhower's visionary "Atoms for Peace" plan in 1955. In practice, new powers have attained a nuclear capacity (France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and for a time, South Africa) that the first nuclear powers, the United States, USSR, and U.K., trusted not to be irresponsible. That judgement has been correct, though there have been concerns about Pakistan. But Iran is completely unacceptable, routinely threatens the destruction of Israel, which has made it clear it would not go quietly to extermination this time; and it is inconceivable that such an Iranian capability would not also provoke comparable steps by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. And no one could seriously blame them. Turning the Middle East into such a nuclear-armed camp would be unimaginably dangerous.
The customary arguments against acting are the usual pusillanimous excuses for appeasement: more extreme Iranian conduct in fomenting fomenting disorder via Hamas and Hezbollah, problems in the Straits of Hormuz, meddling in Afghanistan and Iraq. All of those are more likely to be encouraged by continued weakness, especially if couched in the administration's now familiar aerated hyperbole, such as Secretary Clinton's promise of "crippling sanctions."
The Qum site is represented as impregnable to aerial attack, which is unlikely but irrelevant, as Iranian airspace can be revisited as frequently and comprehensively as necessary until there is an Iranian government capable of coming to its senses.
The United States has turned cheeks until all four have been made vivid. Iran has inflicted its outrages on many countries and on the whole international community. The world cannot leave it to the Jews to do its dirty work again. The world must act and the United States must lead.