Last year, President Bush prevented Israel from striking Iran by refusing to supply bunker busting bombs and aircraft refueling equipment as well as denying permission to fly over Iraq, according to this morning’s New York Times. This most recent news item is consistent with reports over the last several months that Israeli requests for American assistance have been turned down cold. According to the Times, the Bush administration has been employing covert means to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons program.
For now, American efforts, secret and otherwise, have not persuaded the Iranians to give up their bomb program. As the Times report suggests, covert operations can at best buy only a little time. And Bush efforts in recent months to obtain Russian and Chinese cooperation for tough Security Council sanctions have failed. That hasn’t deterred President-elect Obama, who said in an interview today that he will “move swiftly” to engage Tehran. Of course, he feels a political imperative to make an effort to talk to the Iranians, not only because he famously said during the primaries he would do so but also because new leaders never feel they can start their terms with coercive solutions.
Yet the Iranians are not stopping their uranium enrichment just because the American political calendar demands a whole new round of time-consuming discussions. By taking a military solution off the table, the Bush administration has placed great pressure on Obama’s diplomacy to succeed.
At this point, diplomacy is just not that promising. The Iranians “have the cookbook,” as Mohamed ElBaradei put it in September. The chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency has identified the main problem with nonmilitary solutions: the Iranians already have all the technology to make a nuclear device. All they lack are “ingredients.” With a few more spins of their centrifuges-now numbering about 5,000-they will have enough uranium for a warhead to fit atop their missiles.
In December, the Jerusalem Post reported that Israel is thinking about how to attack Iran without Washington’s help. At this point, military force is the only realistic option to stop the mullahs from possessing the most destructive weapon on earth.