A day later, the ayatollahs and the IRGC responded with a series of missile and rocket launches. Though their propaganda coup was compromised by doctored photos, the message was clear: The Iranians have the ability to sow death and destruction well beyond their borders. U.S. officials jumped to reassure Tehran's nervous neighbors that the "U.S. will defend (its) allies in the region" and that the missiles fired were "old technology." Yet the Iranian claim that "more than 30 U.S. and NATO bases are within (their) reach at the push of a button" is no boast.
That's why the sudden decision to send William Burns, the undersecretary of state, to accompany a European Union delegation for meetings with the Iranians is so confounding to so many. It ought to be clear that the "sanctions-incentives" approach long advocated by the United Nations and the EU has not worked. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says that this Saturday's face-to-face confab with Saeed Jalili -- Iran's top "nuclear negotiator" -- represents "no change in the substance, but it sends a strong signal." Unfortunately, it may be the wrong signal to send.
Given preparations in Israel -- both civil and military -- it should be evident that the government in Jerusalem has decided they no longer can hope that the "international community" is going to prevent the Iranians from launching an attack. They now believe that they will have to act in their own self-defense soon.
For five years, various Israeli administrations have bided their time as the toothless International Atomic Energy Agency pleaded for answers to their inspectors' questions about Iranian nuclear weapons production. The Israelis waited patiently as the very docile Javier Solana delivered increasingly lucrative "incentives" to Tehran, only to be diddled by apocalyptic ayatollahs and their diminutive, but dangerous puppet, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Meanwhile, the Iranian nuclear weapons program proceeded unabated.
Israel's very survival could well depend on what happens in the next few months. If the outcome of this week's meeting in Switzerland is more of the same -- "Wait and see what the Iranians think about our new proposal" -- then military action is all but certain.
The government in Jerusalem is well aware that a strike at Iranian missile and nuclear facilities will have profound, long-term consequences. The Israelis don't want to launch a pre-emptive attack before Nov. 4 because they don't want to affect the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. Nor do they want to deal with the post-inaugural uncertainty of a new administration in Washington. Between now and then, someone had better figure out how to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program, or the Israelis will do it for us.
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.