Two years from now, during either a Kerry or Bush presidency, Iran will probably be much more of a security issue for the United States than Iraq.
Yet the campaigns of the two presidential candidates remain focused on Iraq, even though their approaches for stabilizing Iraq are far less different from their solutions for preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
On Tuesday, Iran announced it would go full steam ahead and make the precursor materials that could be used to produce atomic bombs. Its Muslim leaders defied a warning on Saturday from the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency that they not enrich nearly 40 tons of raw uranium into weapons-grade uranium.
The converted uranium could be used for either peaceful nuclear power or for bombs. Under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has a right to produce such material. But the IAEA says Iran won't need such fuel for 10 years. And it found out last year that Iran broke its treaty obligations by secretly running an enrichment program and clandestinely buying nuclear technology and know-how.
IAEA inspectors were purposely fooled - and could be fooled again.
The agency's board also warned Iran it might refer the issue to the UN Security Council in November for possible sanctions.
Adding to this tension was Wednesday's news that the US is selling 4,500 smart bombs to Israel, where some officials warn of strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities if the Islamic republic appears close to making an atomic weapon.
John Kerry says he would open talks with Iran on a host of issues, and offer to supply Iran with peaceful nuclear power if it gave up any intentions or abilities to produce nuclear weapons. President Clinton tried that approach with North Korea, but the deal failed when the North was caught resuming its weapons production.
President Bush tried to engage Iran but gave up last May and is now seeking a confrontational approach, although he has let Britain, Germany, and France take the lead on negotiations.
Mr. Kerry has said Iran is a bigger issue than Iraq. And he's been more upfront in clearly distinguishing his stance on Iran than he has been on Iraq. Perhaps he should return to the issue and again offer a clear choice to voters, who have as much stake in whether Iraq can become peaceful and democratic as they do in whether Iran, a supporter of terrorism, has nuclear weapons.