- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 21, 2006

It’s a very serious mistake to conclude, as evidently have some senior administration officials, that the Iranian nuclear weapons issue has taken a turn toward an acceptable solution in the United Nations. It is even more naive to believe the Russians and Chinese can broker some kind of nuclear fuel “enrichment” arrangement that will resolve the crisis.

To the contrary, the “Iranian nuclear problem” has only worsened (for us) and daily gets more intractable — we just haven’t figured it out yet.

In case our State Department is at all interested, here are the “real factors” presently driving this dangerous situation for us:

• The Europeans may well have concluded we are “OK” with a U.N. “solution.” However, they also assume we understand it’s most likely to be a “fuzzy” resolution: Perhaps some new “diplomatic assurances,” some token acts, but yet a solution that could easily provide ambiguous cover for clandestine continuation of the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Action required? State needs to disabuse the Europeans of these multilateral diplomatic fantasies.

• An intensive air campaign is the most obvious strategic military response to the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Therefore, diplomatic clearances for such a campaign have most probably already moved to center stage, but behind our backs. The goal of these efforts will be to convince us such a campaign would be logistically impossible and therefore unsuccessful. Fortunately, we won’t necessarily need forward operating bases, because we will probably not have them. Action? Rather than wait for the bad news that we have been “isolated” — a State Department favorite term to exact White House policy concessions — we should work “military to military” to get the understandings we need that preserve our options for military action.

c Some of our opponents may believe military action of any kind against the Iranians could only happen if the Saudis — and possibly the Turks and Pakistanis — agree. And, like the above point, there are most probably efforts to foreclose this agreement already under way — again, behind our backs. Again, State should stand aside in favor of very senior Defense Department discussions with these governments.

• Fortunately, the planning decisions for military action will have not much to do with our commitments and operations in Iraq, because essentially different forces would be used to take out the Iranian nuclear weapons infrastructure. And this may remain the only factor primarily within our control.

• Worst of all, the Iranians may well believe we are “not really serious” in our protests because of our acquiescence during the 1990s with the Pakistani and Indian nuclear weapon development and testing. They may assume that, because of this, we simply will have to acquiesce — again — to the “new reality” of a nuclear Iran.

Action? A speech by President Bush may be needed to address such a fundamental miscalculation: The Iranians need to be told in no uncertain terms that under no circumstances will they be able to develop a military nuclear capability.

• The Israelis are really in a box: They simply cannot allow the Iranians to develop a nuclear weapon’s capability and will be forced to intervene to prevent it if no one else does. But they may be effectively prevented from doing so — and for some time — because of the diplomatic exuberance surrounding the present efforts in the U.N. This is a problem State could and should be handling.

• And, don’t forget our midterm elections; not only that, but the longer the Iranians can hint there is an acceptable diplomatic solution (say, with Russian or Chinese complicity) the likelier this issue will fold into our next presidential campaign, increasing the odds of a “soft” diplomatic solution that allows the Iranians the diplomatic ambiguity to continue their covert nuclear weapons program. President Bush is obliged to see that doesn’t happen, and will have the strength, even as an eventual “lame duck,” to do so.

In short — and as the diplomatic slang so accurately has it — we are being “slow-rolled” by the U.N. (with Russian and Chinese help) on the Iranian nuclear issue. And, most probably, nothing short of military action by us, a coalition of us and others (except the Israelis) — or the Israelis acting on their own — will stop or even seriously interfere with the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

If we hope or believe anything less might work, we are simply foolish: In fact, the Iranian nuclear crisis isn’t, as some say, a “test of the U.N.” — it’s more a test of our diplomatic naivete.

Daniel Gallington is a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.

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