Washington, D.C. -- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the public face of Iran's radical Islamic theocracy, has a knack for making news. His recently released "guests" -- 15 British military hostages -- had hardly traded their Tehran tailor togs for military uniforms before the tyrant was once again prancing on the world stage. This week he chose Iran's Natanz nuclear enrichment facility as a backdrop to proclaim: "With great honor, I declare that as of today our dear country has joined the nuclear club of nations and can produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale." Thumbing his nose at U.N. demands that Iran cease uranium enrichment or face sanctions, he announced that Iranian engineers had begun operating 3,000 gas centrifuges to enrich uranium. If it's true, we're all in serious trouble. But even more troubling: We don't know, and worse, no one seems to care.
Has Iran taken a major step to build nuclear weapons? Is the outlaw regime in Tehran closer to constructing a functional device? These would seem to be important questions. Yet, the truth of the Iranian claim that they are producing quantities of enriched uranium is shrouded in secrecy -- and seemingly willful ignorance.
Since Ahmadinejad's April 9 nuclear announcement, the masters of our mainstream media have plied us with many more titillating stories about the paternity of a dead Playboy pin-up's baby and the racist comments of a radio shock jock than they have with what we know -- or don't know -- about the Iranian nuclear threat. European and U.S. government officials responded to the blatant provocation with the ostrich approach: If we ignore it, maybe it will go away.
The British, German, Italian, Dutch and French governments declined any speculation about the Iranian claim. Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' toothless "nuclear proliferation watchdog," noted that he had dispatched two IAEA inspectors just this week to the Natanz site while he jetted off to visit "concerned" Persian Gulf states. He and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal were said to have "reviewed issues of mutual interest."
Russian reporters -- perhaps more aware of their country's role as Iran's principal atomic benefactor -- were apparently more persistent. Moscow's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was provoked enough to say, "We haven't got a confirmation yet that they have actually begun uranium enrichment at the new cascade of centrifuges." He added, "We have heard the Iranian president's statement and adopted a serious attitude to what is going on in relation to the Iranian nuclear program. But we would like to proceed from facts, not from emotional political gestures."
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.