Obama's worst nightmare: an election-year nuclear ploy by Iran
Obama should send a message to Iran that he would react strongly in the event of an election-eve Iranian nuclear surprise. That way, he keeps his options open and Iran on notice.
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President Obama has declared he will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear-weapons capability. But his options are limited.
A strike against Iran’s nuclear installations? That would mean starting another war in the midst of the US election campaign. Unlikely.
Dissuade Israel from striking Iran – an attack that would necessarily involve US moral and practical support during campaign season? For Israel, a nuclear-armed Tehran is a death sentence. So reining in Israel is also unlikely.
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Accepting the reality of an Iran with nuclear weapons, but publicly warning Tehran against using them? Possible, but dangerously weak-looking for a president up for reelection who promised not to let this happen.
I hope someone in the White House is working on this. I hope Iran is not able to do it.
Iran may have overcome the problem of the “Stuxnet worm,” planted, probably by Israel, to cause its uranium-enriching centrifuges to run wild. Iranian nuclear scientists may have substantially accelerated their ability to make a type of nuclear fuel enabling them to produce bomb-grade material in a hurry. William Hague, the British foreign minister, speculated recently that when Iran has accumulated enough uranium enriched to the 20 percent level, it would take “only two or three months to convert this into weapons-grade material.”
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What better time for Iran to produce a nuclear weapon than the middle of the US presidential campaign, when the American president is hobbled in his options?
Could Iran be so foolishly provocative? Reason would say no. But can we count on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Mad Hatter of Iranian politics, currently embroiled in a shoving match with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for power, to be rational?
Endless American and European negotiations with Iran to halt its suspected race to acquire nuclear weapons have gone nowhere. Tougher sanctions have caused some Iranian discomfort but no cessation of nuclear development.
Russia has proposed a new approach, but it involves no tougher sanctions and is unlikely to be fruitful. Russia has major economic interests in Iran. Indeed, the Russian plan curtails sanctions to reward Iran if it addresses international concerns about its nuclear program.