Friday, April 28, 2006

Iran's Latest

The Wall Street Journal:
A funny thing happened on the way to the Iranian bomb: The more alarming the mullahs' behavior, the more nonchalant the rest of the world seems to be about it. But one development may give even the most adamant pooh-poohers pause.

Just this month, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that Iran had enriched uranium to reactor-grade levels in a 164-centrifuge cascade, a major technical achievement that puts Iran within hopping distance of an actual bomb. Mr. Ahmadinejad followed this up by announcing that Iran was working on an advanced centrifuge of Pakistani design, the possession of which Iran had previously denied to inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. These centrifuges are capable of enriching uranium at four times the rate of Iran's declared centrifuges.

Next, Iran rebuffed IAEA requests to inspect the new centrifuges, a violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to which Iran is a signatory. Iran then threatened to withdraw from the NPT altogether if the United Nations imposed sanctions for its violations thereof. The U.N. Security Council has imposed a deadline of today for Iran to stop enriching uranium.

Tehran states flatly that it will ignore it. Israeli intelligence also reports this week that Iran has purchased an upgraded version of the Soviet SS-6 ballistic missile from North Korea, which is capable of carrying a nuclear payload and has a range of about 1,600 miles, putting parts of Europe well within range. The threat seems all the more pressing following warnings Wednesday by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader, that Iran would attack U.S. interests "in every possible part of the world" if the U.S. launches air strikes against Iran's nuclear sites.

And the international community's response? Russia and China, both veto-wielding members of the Security Council, are adamantly opposed to U.N. sanctions on Iran. Their view is mainly shared by Richard Lugar, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Committee, who thinks President Bush "ought to cool this one" by negotiating directly with Tehran.

In Europe, British Foreign Minister Jack Straw has reportedly told Cabinet colleagues that it would be "illegal" for Britain to participate in any prospective military action against Iran. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier agrees: "We will not stop Iran with war," he recently told the news weekly Der Spiegel.

Which brings us to Iran's latest.

On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that Mr. Khamenei offered to share the nuclear genie with the government of Sudan. "The Islamic Republic of Iran is prepared to transfer the experience, knowledge and technology of its scientists," Mr. Khamenei told visiting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Mr. Bashir, whose government abets the massacre of Darfuris, says Sudan could use a nuclear reactor to generate electricity. Uh huh. READ MORE

How so many apparently thoughtful people can face the idea of an Iranian bomb with relative equanimity remains a mystery to us. Whether they are as "cool" with the idea of fissile material in Mr. Bashir's hands is another matter. Whatever the case, they should consider that acquiescing to a bomb for Iran may also mean agreeing to one for many more of the world's worst actors.