LONDON -- If September goes as August ended, this is going to be a very interesting month. On Monday, President George W. Bush told the American Legion in Reno, Nev., that two dangerous strands of Islamic extremism are converging in Iraq, "supported and embodied by the regime that sits in Tehran." He went on to warn that the Iranians "must halt these actions."
Earlier that same day, French President Nicolas Sarkozy observed that Iran's nuclear ambitions present "catastrophic" alternatives: "an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran." Both Bush and Sarkozy are correct -- though it may shock liberal Democrats to see the French standing side by side with the United States on an issue none of their candidates for president wants to talk about.
Importantly, within hours of the U.S. and French presidents' remarks, Iranian Head of State Mahmoud Ahmadinejad observed that U.S. influence in Iraq is "being destroyed rapidly" and that "Iran is willing to fill this void."
A U.S. State Department spokesman rushed to the microphones to understate the obvious, by forcefully noting that Ahmadinejad's threats were "unhelpful."
And therein lies the problem. For the first time in decades, the French government is allied with a U.S. administration on the threat posed by Iran. For months, Bush has been trying to build international support for stronger measures against Iran's nuclear weapons program and Tehran's proclivity to foment sectarian violence in Iraq. Yet, all the State Department can do is observe that the Iranians are being "unhelpful."
As the Democrat-led Congress returns to "work" this week, it is likely to be equally passive when it comes to dealing with the real threats facing the United States. Though General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker have yet to deliver their report on the effectiveness of the "surge" in Iraq, Democratic leaders, and their candidates for president, have already staked out what they think is important.
Sen. Barak Obama wants to bomb Pakistan. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton prefers to "honor" our troops by getting them out of Iraq. Sen. John Edwards is ready to raise the white flag immediately. Meanwhile, congressional Democrats are intent on investigating Alberto Gonzalez, who resigned this week as attorney general. And none of them has anything useful to say about the most serious threat we have faced in decades: a nuclear-armed Iran.
Though Democratic leaders don't want to talk about it, the intent of the radical theocracy ruling in Tehran can no longer be in doubt. The United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency reported last spring that Iran now has sufficient cascades of gas centrifuges on line to produce "commercial quantities" of enriched uranium. Even the most naive and self-serving politicians in Congress know that this means that Iranian scientists are close to being able to build atomic weapons. That also means that time and options are rapidly running out on how to stop them.
In July, Sen. Joe Lieberman, in a column in The Wall Street Journal titled "Iran's Proxy War," tried to wake up his colleagues to Tehran's new aggressiveness: "In addition to sponsoring insurgents in Iraq, Tehran is training, funding and equipping radical Islamist groups in Lebanon, Palestine and Afghanistan -- where the Taliban now appear to be receiving Iranian help in their war against the government of President Hamid Karzai and its NATO defenders." He accurately noted that "Iran is acting aggressively and consistently to undermine moderate regimes in the Middle East, establish itself as the dominant regional power, and reshape the region in its own ideological image." His fellow Democrats shrugged off this sobering assessment.
The unwillingness of the majority party in Congress to even debate or put forward any proposals for how we should deal with the peril we face from Tehran ought to concern all of us. Without a consensus in Congress on how we should confront a radical Islamic theocracy armed with atomic weapons, the nation is placed in grave danger. Just six years after 3,000 people died at the hands of suicidal Islamic radicals, we may have to face the prospect of Islamic radicals having the capability of destroying an entire American city. The French have awakened to this peril. Will our Congress?