Today, Mohamed ElBaradei, in unusually blunt terms, warned that Tehran might be hiding elements of a covert nuclear weapons program. “Iran needs to give the agency substantive information,” the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency told his governing board. At the same time, David Albright, a nuclear weapons analyst, said Iran had made substantial improvements in its centrifuges, which enrich uranium. These complicated devices “now appear to be running at approximately 85 percent of the stated target capacity, a significant increase over previous rates.” Based on this, he has concluded that the mullahs might be just six months from being able to build a bomb.
Albright’s conclusion means the time for generalities has passed. Unfortunately, we are still hearing them. As Shmuel Rosner pointed out, today Richard Holbrooke, James Woolsey, Dennis Ross, and Mark Wallace said that the United States should adopt policies that “will compel Iran’s leaders to change their behavior and come to understand that they have more to lose than to gain by going nuclear.” And how will we accomplish this? They have formed a group and will announce programs “in the months ahead.” In the months ahead, however, Iran will already have all the technology it needs to build a nuclear device and will not listen to anyone. In fact, the Iranians are not listening to anyone now.
By now it’s clear the United Nations will not impose meaningful measures. We can blame Russia and China, but the Bush administration has never made either of them pay any price for obstructionism and it is not about to start doing so. European initiatives to open talks have been totally ineffective. At this point, the negotiations urged by five former secretaries of state will start much too late if at all.
The international community, at this late moment, has only one option short of the use of force: the declaration of a total blockade of Iran. If it cannot impose and enforce that–and it cannot while Dubya fails to show any leadership on the world’s most critical problem–then we have only two choices left.
“We must try to prevent situations where we have only two bleak choices: confrontation or capitulation, 1914 or 1938,” said Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Friday. Yet that is exactly where we are at this time.
If we cannot summon the will to blockade Iran, we either have to use force or acquiesce to a nuclear Iran. It is that simple.