Iran might not have rated a single mention in the president’s address to Congress last night, but that doesn’t mean nothing interesting is happening there.
Today, the New York Times reports that Iran has started tests on its first nuclear power plant in Bushehr. The Russian-built plant will begin loading its nuclear fuel later this year but we are assured the Russians will not let any of that fuel be used for illicit purposes.
However, Israel isn’t reassured. Defense Minister Ehud Barak noted that Iran’s announcement that it had increased the number of centrifuges enriching uranium at the Bushehr plant to 6,000 constitutes a stage in the creation of a substantial existential threat to Israel, adding that time was running out on preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
Barak is right. Iran’s clear progress toward nuclear capability is something it’s not bothering to conceal anymore. Moreover, the news that earlier this month Tehran launched into orbit a satellite on a domestically-built rocket ought to scare those advocates of “engagement” who keep claiming Iran has no way to deliver a bomb even if it made one.
While we don’t doubt the economy is President Obama’s top priority these days, the short shrift given to national-security concerns in his speech to Congress highlights the fact that this administration has not taken the threat from Iran seriously. But the news about the nuclear progress Iran is making serves as yet another reminder that the White House cannot ignore this issue indefinitely. At some point, and it may be sooner rather than later, Obama is going to have to make a decision about what he will actually do to stop Iran’s push for nukes. Talking about talking will not be enough. The Bush administration spent years trying to lure Tehran into talks about stopping its nuclear programs and largely outsourced this problem to our European allies — who failed.
While there are no attractive options here, Obama should think about whether he wants his foreign policy legacy to be America’s resignation to an Islamist regime’s gaining the ability to “wipe Israel off the map” with one weapon.