Thus did supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declare in February that Iran's possession of atomic weapons would be a mortal sin against Allah.
It is also the unanimous judgment of the U.S. intelligence community, declared in 2007 and affirmed in 2011, that Iran has abandoned any program to build nuclear weapons.
Is the Ayatollah lying? Is the entire U.S. intel community wrong?
Iran's plants, at Natanz, where uranium is enriched to 5 percent, and at Fordow, where it is enriched to 20 percent -- both below weapons grade -- are under constant U.N. monitoring. Iran has offered to surrender its 20 percent uranium and cease enriching to that level, if the West will provide isotopes for its nuclear medicine and lift some of the more onerous sanctions.
No deal, says the United States. Iran must give up enrichment entirely and indefinitely.
This is the sticking point in the negotiations. Iran contends that as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, she has the right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. On this, the Iranian people stand behind their government.
Should this deadlock be a cause for war?
Assume Iran did divert low-grade nuclear fuel to some secret plant to enrich it to weapons grade. The process would take months, if not years. Iran would then have to build and test an explosive device that the world would know about in hours. Iran would then have to weaponize the device.
The whole process would take longer than a year, perhaps several. We would learn about it and have time to exercise a military option long before it came to pass.
The Israelis, with hundreds of nuclear weapons, would probably have learned about it before us. And, fearing Iran more, they would not hesitate to use what they have to prevent an atom bomb in Tehran.
Comes the retort: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a certifiable fanatic who has threatened to wipe Israel off the map. He cannot be allowed to get anywhere near a nuclear weapon.
Yet whatever Ahmadinejad said years ago, and that remains in dispute, he does not control the military, he does not decide on war, and he leaves the presidency next July and heads back to academia.
Is America afraid of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?
Where, then, is the mortal threat to justify the U.S. preparations for war with Iran described in the national press this week?
The Financial Times' Gideon Rachman argues that our obsession with Iran is obscuring a far greater potential threat.
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