- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 4, 2009


It is hard to discern the president’s approach to national security. His latest foreign policy mistake concerns the new revelation that Iran is building a covert second site to enrich uranium in the city of Qom.

According to a Sept. 25 White House statement, the U.S. Intelligence community had accumulated evidence leading it to conclude earlier this year with “high confidence” that this was a uranium enrichment facility. Such a facility has only one purpose: to make nuclear weapons fuel.

This comes on the heels of a series of other mistakes that have created a growing international credibility crisis in his leadership. He has embraced a policy of making it easier to publicly release state secrets, prosecuting CIA officers involved in fighting terrorism while promoting a law enforcement approach to fighting international terrorism that likely will disclose intelligence sources and methods in courtroom dramas. He has shown indecision on Afghanistan, a poor record on gaining increased support from our allies, abruptly canceled a key component of missile defense in Europe and embraced talks with Iran when they declared their nuclear program off the table.

Even though he has long known about the Qom enrichment site, Mr. Obama offered only tepid criticism of Iran at the United Nations and in his major speech in Cairo last June. He has stressed how the United Nations must take the lead in addressing the Iranian nuclear program, although international institutions have been discussing this issue since 2002 and Russia and China have used their veto power to water down all attempts to sanction Iran in the U.N. Security Council.

The president also decided the United States was to join multilateral talks with Iran on Oct. 1 that are to use an Iranian agenda that excludes its nuclear program. These are not the kind of signals we should be sending to Tehran.

Since 2002, Iran has carefully pushed the envelope of tolerance with the United States and the international community. Tehran’s “just a few centrifuges, just for civilian use” and “they’re just for testing” has been its usual response to international criticism: not enough to evoke a harsh international response, but just enough to allow it continue its nuclear weapons research. Iran has stalled strategically and raced tactically.

Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other regional states have indicated they will also pursue nuclear weapons if Iran is successful. The protection of a nuclear umbrella would make Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism, dangerous indeed. Tehran already has shown it is willing to introduce weapons to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The destabilizing regional impact of a nuclear Iran is too dangerous to let happen. We must aggressively pursue strong international sanctions, and we must do it now.

Based on their past action in international organizations, it is hard to believe China or Russia will agree to support increased sanctions to curb Iran’s nuclear program - and the Iranian missile tests last weekend indicate Iran is confident Moscow and Beijing will continue to protect it at the United Nations. Nevertheless, the administration appears to believe in working through the United Nations to meet its September deadline to discuss Iran’s nuclear program. Further fruitless talks will mean more centrifuges and more enriched uranium.

Yesterday’s multilateral talks with Iran are likely to prove unproductive, since they were based on the Iranian agenda that includes regional issues and the environment but not Iran’s nuclear program. This is just more of Iran’s successful stall-and-build strategy.

The window to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program is closing fast. Iran continues its close relationship with Syria and North Korea, both of which are developing ballistic missiles and have nuclear ambitions. The appetite in the region for missiles is growing as Iran’s nuclear threat gets closer and North Korea is eager to supply them.

Our allies are becoming increasingly worried that the United States under President Obama is abdicating responsibility for combating rogue state programs on weapons of mass destruction to the United Nations and that we are becoming a complacent partner in the failed efforts of the United Nations on Iranian nuclear ambitions.

The United States must demand that Tehran bring its nuclear program into compliance with U.N. and International Atomic Energy Agency resolutions as a part of any talks. If they refuse (again), then the United States and its allies should immediately suspend talks and proceed with aggressive sanctions. We must be prepared to enforce deadlines set with strict and suffocating sanctions. Nothing will inspire China and Russia to join more than a strong European and U.S. effort on sanctions.

The world’s security doesn’t have the luxury to wait for more Iranian stalling. Former Republican Sen. Dan Coats and Democratic Sen. Charles S. Robb concluded in a recent bipartisan report that Iran will be able to produce a nuclear weapon next year. Our allies deserve strong U.S. leadership and the security of not having a Mideast nuclear arms race.

The clock is ticking. The world is watching. It’s time to get serious.

Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan is the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee’s terrorism and human intelligence subcommittee and a former FBI Special Agent.

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