Here's what Iran would now like the world to believe: For 18 years, it has been able to make bomb-grade plutonium and enriched uranium, but the small quantities produced were only for medical use.
And it all had to be kept secret.
Oh, really? No wonder a report this week from the International Atomic Energy Agency cites "serious concerns" that Iran has a secret nuclear-bomb program and should now be subject to "particularly robust" inspections for apparent violations of nuclear-nonproliferation rules.
Since the secret project was discovered a few months ago, Iran has tried to appear cooperative with inspectors in hopes that European officials in the IAEA governing council won't follow Washington's suggestion and vote next week to recommend to the Security Council that economic sanctions be imposed.
Iran can't afford to become a pariah state as Saddam Hussein's Iraq was and to see its economy get even worse. Its unpopular ruling clerics must create millions of jobs for a bulging mass of unemployed youths.
A few weeks of feigned contrition by Iran shouldn't fool European leaders that it's come completely clean. Europe also needs to send a message to Russia - one of four countries that have provided nuclear technology to Iran - that it should take nonproliferation more seriously.
A nuclear Iran would destabilize the Middle East. The IAEA must use the threat of sanctions to ensure it has access in Iran for the foreseeable future. If it doesn't act, Israel just might.
Iran doesn't need nuclear weapons for international stature, and many of its leaders know that.