Charles Krauthammer

(1) Hamas launching rockets into Israeli towns and villages across the border from the Gaza Strip. Its intention is to invite an Israeli reaction, preferably a bloody and telegenic ground assault.

(2) Hezbollah heavily rearmed with Iranian rockets transshipped through Syria and preparing for the next round of fighting with Israel. The Third Lebanon War, now inevitable, awaits only Tehran's order.

(3) Syria, Iran's only Arab client state, building up forces across the Golan Heights frontier with Israel. And on Wednesday, yet another anti-Syrian member of Lebanon's parliament is killed in a massive car bombing.

(4) The al-Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards training and equipping Shiite extremist militias in the use of the deadliest IEDs and rocketry against American and Iraqi troops. Iran is similarly helping the Taliban to attack NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Why is Iran doing this? Because it has its eye on a single prize: the bomb. It needs a bit more time, knowing that once it goes nuclear, it becomes the regional superpower and Persian Gulf hegemon.

Iran's assets in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq are poised and ready. Ahmadinejad's message is this: If anyone dares attack our nuclear facilities, we will fully activate our proxies, unleashing unrestrained destruction on Israel, moderate Arabs, Iraq and U.S. interests -- in addition to the usual, such as mining the Strait of Hormuz and causing an acute oil crisis and worldwide recession.

This is an extremely high-stakes game. The time window is narrow. In probably less than two years, Ahmadinejad will have the bomb.

The world is not quite ready to acquiesce. The new president of France has declared a nuclear Iran "unacceptable." The French foreign minister warned that "it is necessary to prepare for the worst" -- and "the worst, it's war, sir."

Which makes it all the more urgent that powerful sanctions be slapped on the Iranian regime. Sanctions will not stop Ahmadinejad. But there are others in the Iranian elite who might stop both him and the nuclear program before the volcano explodes. These rival elites may be radical but they are not suicidal. And they believe, with reason, that whatever damage Ahmadinejad's apocalyptic folly may inflict upon the region and the world, on Crusader and Jew, on infidel and believer, the one certain result of such an eruption is Iran's Islamic republic buried under the ash.

Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

Be the first to read Krauthammer's column. Sign up today and receive delivered each morning to your inbox.