September 13, 2011 | Commentary on Iran
Can anyone give me some good news on how the Obama administration’s doing (after 2 1/2 years) on preventing the Islamic Republic of Iran from developing nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles that’ll carry them?
Didn’t think so.
The latest news suggests that, despite all the bloviating, finger-wagging and sloppy United Nations sanctions, there doesn’t seem to be much -- if anything -- holding back the ayatollahs’ atomic aspirations.
The always-cautious-and-slow-to-accuse International Atomic Energy Agency has come out with some startling info about Iran’s nuclear know-how recently: Iran is installing a new generation of centrifuges at its facility at Natanz, equipment that reportedly will allow Tehran to enrich uranium three times faster.
Plus, Iran is outfitting its new nuclear facility at Qom with new centrifuges -- which experts believe will permit it to further increase uranium-enrichment levels far beyond what’s needed for peaceful nuclear-reactor fuel.
The “fissile fortress” at Qom -- located on a Revolutionary Guard base and securely tucked into the side of a mountain -- is pretty clearly meant to produce the highly enriched uranium needed for the making of Iran’s first bombs.
It’s been estimated Iran already has enough low-enriched uranium on hand to produce enough highly enriched uranium for two to three bombs in relatively short order. And the IAEA (from its own detective work and intel provided by members) has “increasing concern” that Iran’s peaceful nuclear program has a military angle.
That is, the IAEA fears Tehran is working on a nuke warhead to put that uranium in.
Courtesy of Russia, Iran’s first nuclear plant is also online now, surging watts to the country’s electrical grid. Tehran claims the Bushehr reactor is for power only, but many see a second use for the facility. At some point, the 1,000-megawatt nuclear plant -- perhaps the first of many -- could help Iran build a plutonium-based bomb, quickly pumping up the muscle of a nuclear arsenal.
Meanwhile, Tehran’s burgeoning ballistic-missile program is building the capacity to deliver those nuclear payloads. A number of countries, including ours, claim Iran is violating a ban on its missile activities. UN Security Council Resolution 1929 bars Tehran from “any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology.”
Iran has been as busy as a beaver with its satellite program, which allows it to develop -- under cover of a seemingly-innocent civilian space program -- the same missile technology needed for long-range military missiles.
From all accounts, the various pieces for a nuclear Iran are rapidly falling into place, should the regime decide to cross the atomic threshold: sufficient fissile material, a warhead to put it in and a vehicle to deliver it to a target.
And all of this atop other recent troubling tales, such as word that Tehran is facilitating al Qaeda operations, including the movement of operatives, money and (probably) arms into Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Not to mention its holding of American hikers, political and social repression at home; meddling in Egypt and Bahrain; supporting Syria’s bloody crackdown -- and its arming of the Taliban and anti-US militias in Iraq.
Bottom line, there’s no good news regarding Iran. The situation is getting worse on a number of fronts, especially concerning the mullahs’ drive to build an arsenal of nuclear missiles.
It should be plain to even the most casual observer that what we’re doing isn’t moving us in a direction of increased security, but the exact opposite. We need a new game plan for Iran now, Mr. President -- before it’s too late.
Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.
First appeared in The New York Post