In the last week, more evidence of the serious nature of Iran’s nuclear threat has been made public. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran has dramatically increased its production of highly enriched uranium that is close to weapons-grade fuel. Much of it is being produced in a mountain bunker in Fordow in northwestern Iran. Friday’s report claimed Iran already has enough enriched uranium to build four nuclear weapons, and the move of the operation to underground bunkers and a larger stockpile of uranium could shorten the time needed for Iran to develop a nuke. All this undermines the credibility of the claims put forward by Iran’s apologists that there is no proof of their intentions to make a bomb. As Frederick Kagan and Maseh Zarif write in today’s Wall Street Journal, “There is no case to be made that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapons capability. There is no evidence that Iran’s decision-makers are willing to stop the nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions or anything else.”
The IAEA report, which built upon the evidence in previous releases from the agency, makes all the more curious the efforts by the Obama administration to cast doubt upon the idea that Iran is working towards building a bomb. U.S. intelligence sources have been plying the mainstream press with spin about the data coming from Iran while even citing the long-discredited 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that claimed Iran had abandoned its weapons program. Given the volume of findings about Iran’s nuclear project and Tehran’s refusal to take steps that would reassure the international community they are not working toward a bomb, the Pollyanna-like faith that the Islamist regime poses no nuclear threat to the world is, at best, naive, and, at worst, a cynical attempt to prevent any Western or Israeli effort to forestall the danger.
As Kagan and Zarif point out, much of the current debate about Iran is utterly disingenuous. The attempt to draw analogies between Iran in 2012 and the intelligence failures that preceded the invasion of Iraq fall flat when you realize there isn’t much about Iran’s program that has been kept secret. While the contradictory and often confused statements of American intelligence chiefs about Iran seem more about their desire to atone for past mistakes completely unconnected with present dilemmas, the attempt to raise the Iraq precedent seems solely intended to halt any discussion about what to do about the specter of an Iranian bomb.
The plain fact of the matter is the Obama administration does not wish to be forced to make a decision about Iran. It prefers to spend the next eight months of the presidential campaign reiterating the president’s tough rhetoric about not letting the Islamist regime attain nuclear capability while not actually having to do much, if anything, to fulfill its pledges on the issue. Thus, its priority now is to pressure Israel not to take action on its own that might upset this scheme of prevarication. But any argument based on the premise that further negotiations or engagement with Iran constitute a fruitful path towards resolution of this problem is not serious. Nor can much hope be placed in the administration’s irresolute dedication to pursuing sanctions which it appears China and Russia will sabotage.
There are, as Kagan and Zarif stipulate, good reasons to fear the results of any resort to force against Iran by either Israel or the United States. But, as they say, arguments against attacking Iran should be made in a straightforward manner and not disguised by dishonest attempts to cloud the truth about the nature of this threat.