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On January 29, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was interviewed on CBS news. When asked about the situation with Iran, Secretary Panetta responded: “[I]f they [Iran] decided to [build a nuclear device], it would probably take them about a year … [and] …if they proceed and [if] we get intelligence…then….there are no options that are off the table” for the US commitment to stop Iran from building a nuclear arsenal.
Sounds good, except for all the “ifs:” “if they produce” and “if we get intelligence” and “if they decide to do it”
Panetta’s “ifs” create the impression that there may in fact be no threat from Iran, that Iran may not be pursuing nuclear capacity, that there is as yet no actionable intelligence about Iranian WMDs, and that maybe Iran has not decided to pursue a nuclear option.
But facts of which Mr. Panetta must be aware tell us the opposite.
Back in the ‘60s the Shah tried to start a WMD program for Iran but it floundered and was abandoned. In the mid-1990s the Ayatollahs restarted the program. Iran said it wanted nuclear power for clean energy needs, but in 2002 an Iranian exile group shared with Western intelligence secret Iranian documents revealing a clandestine program to enrich weapons-grade uranium. The facility at Natanz was built with the assistance of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear program. Under threat of sanctions, the government agreed in 2003 to halt work on uranium enrichment; but in 2006, less than a year after Akhmedi-Nejad took power, the Iranian government announced that it was going to restart its uranium enrichment. No “ifs” about that.
From 2005 onward US intelligence organizations and the Israeli Mossad worked together to locate and sabotage the financial underpinnings of the Iranian nuclear project. On September 9, 2009, American intelligence concluded that Iran had the nuclear fuel necessary to build an atomic bomb, thanks in part to a hitherto undocumented underground plant near the city of Qom. Most recently in January of this year, Iran announced defiantly that it was going to start an additional uranium enrichment site, fortified to withstand even the most powerful of America’s bunker-busting bombs. No “ifs” about that either.
In May 2011, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akhbar Salehi addressed a regional economic summit in Tehran. He told his audience that he was optimistic that nuclear inspectors would not find anything amiss when they visited Iran. Of course he was optimistic. For the past 20 years Iran has done a great job of hiding those of their WMD sites that were devoted to the development of military uses for nuclear weapons.
American efforts to counteract the Iranian threat have been limited to sanctions and efforts to persuade EU allies to cease cooperation with Iranian financial institutions, the most significant of which were H.R. 1905, the Iranian Threat Reduction Act of (May) 2011, and the Senate’s decision in December 2011 to approve sanctions against Iran’s central bank. Although, as has recently become clear, President Obama does not support such actions, even though a nuclear Iran now threatens the American continents, he nonetheless signed these newest and most comprehensive sanctions on December 31, 2011. No “ifs” in the opinion of Congress nor in Obama’s acquiescence.
Throughout the past decade Iran has argued that it merely wants to generate clean, green electricity with its nuclear program; but a host of reports from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), thoroughly documented in a series of articles in the NY Times, create the more than merely credible case that Iran has been well on its way for over a decade to developing a nuclear device for military use. The New York Times offers no support for any “ifs.”
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