WASHINGTON -- This week, Americans observed the seventh anniversary of the worst attack on U.S. soil in our nation's history, with memorial services for the 3,000 of our countrymen who perished Sept. 11, 2001. This week's commemorations also should remind us that the failure to act against a clear and present danger can have extremely dire consequences. That's what happened for eight years with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida movement. Unfortunately, now it's happening again, with Tehran.
In February 2006, I interviewed Dr. David Kay, an internationally respected arms expert, for a Fox News' "War Stories" documentary on the Manhattan Project. Kay headed the U.N. inspection team that uncovered Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program after the 1990-91 Gulf War. During the course of our discussion, I asked Kay whether we should be concerned about Iran's nuclear ambitions. His response was a warning:
"We should be worried about it for two reasons. A) They're on a course that will, in fact, finally at some point produce nuclear weapons, and secondly, they have a regime which does not appear to play by the normal rules of stable international behavior. They speak of destruction. They speak of chaos, wiping Israel off the face of the earth. They also are the leading state sponsor of terrorism not exactly what I view as a secure holder of the nuclear genie."
Last December, a highly controversial U.S. National Intelligence Estimate concluded that the Iranians had put their nuclear weapons program "on hold" -- perhaps as early as 2003. But this week, in the September/October issue of The National Interest, Kay proffered yet another caution: "It looks as if Iran is 80 percent of the way to a functioning nuclear weapon."
The evidence Kay cites for the progress Tehran is making in developing an atomic weapons arsenal ought to be alarming to policymakers in Washington. His sobering assessment "that Iran is pushing toward a nuclear-weapons capability as rapidly as it can" ought to inspire concerted action by the U.S. and our allies to prevent such an outcome. Yet American and European officials seem content to rely on "voluntary" sanctions imposed by the United Nations.
This week, the U.S. departments of State and Treasury announced that the U.S. assets of the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and more than a dozen of its subsidiaries have been frozen. According to Stuart Levey, undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, IRISL has engaged in a broad "pattern of deception and fabrication that Iran uses to advance its nuclear and missile programs." Treasury officials also are urging maritime insurers to stop providing coverage for Iranian vessels, including Tehran's fleet of petroleum tankers.
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.