WASHINGTON -- Did we invade the wrong country? One of the lessons now being drawn from the 9/11 report is that Iran was the real threat. It had links to al Qaeda, allowed some of the 9/11 hijackers to transit through, and is today harboring al Qaeda leaders. The Iraq War critics have a new line of attack: We should have done Iran instead of Iraq.
Well, of course Iran is a threat and a danger. But how exactly would the critics have ``done'' Iran? Iran is a serious country with a serious army. Compared to Iraq, an invasion of Iran would have been infinitely more costly. Can you imagine these critics, who were shouting ``quagmire'' and ``defeat'' when the low-level guerrilla war in Iraq intensified in April, actually supporting war with Iran?
If not war, what then? We know the central foreign policy principle of Bush critics: multilateralism. Kerry and the Democrats have said it a hundred times: The source of our troubles is Bush's insistence on ``going it alone.'' They promise to ``rejoin the community of nations'' and ``work with our allies.''
Well, that happens to be exactly what we have been doing on Iran. And the policy is an abject failure. The Bush administration, having decided that invading one axis-of-evil country was about as much as either the military or the country can bear, has gone multilateral on Iran, precisely what the Democrats advocate. Washington delegated the issue to a committee of three -- the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany -- that has been meeting with the Iranians to get them to shut down their nuclear program.
The result? They have been led by the nose. Iran is caught red-handed with illegally enriched uranium, and the Tehran Three prevail upon the Bush administration to do nothing while they persuade the mullahs to act nice. Therefore, we do not go to the U.N. Security Council to declare Iran in violation of the Nonproliferation Treaty. We do not impose sanctions. We do not begin squeezing Iran to give up its nuclear program.
Instead, we give Iran more time to swoon before the persuasive powers of ``Jack of Tehran'' -- British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw -- until finally, humiliatingly, Iran announces that it will resume enriching uranium and that nothing will prevent it from becoming a member of the ``nuclear club.''
The result has not been harmless. Time is of the essence, and the runaround that the Tehran Three have gotten from the mullahs has meant that we have lost at least nine months in doing anything to stop the Iranian nuclear program.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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