Paul Greenberg

We've seen this play before: lots of negotiation, little if any prevention. Gen. James Jones, this president's national "security" adviser, says he still believes Tehran gave up its attempt to develop nuclear weapons back in 2003. That's been Washington's story for six years of Iranian nuclear development and deception, and Gen. Jones is sticking with it, at least publicly.

No matter what other nations' intelligence agencies report. Or what experience with Iran, North Korea and such regimes would suggest. The folks at the top of the chain of command in Washington have access to all those top-secret reports, but sometimes you have to wonder if they read the papers.

We've come to a not so pretty pass when Americans have to rely on the president of France -- France! -- to face the truth and tell it to the world. After the American president had delivered one of his sweetness-and-light nuclear-disarmament lectures at the United Nations, it was left to Nicholas Sarkozy to tell it with the bark off the next day at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh:

"President Obama himself has said that he dreams of a world without nuclear weapons. Before our very eyes, two countries (North Korea and Iran) are doing exactly the opposite at this very moment. Since 2005, Iran has violated five Security Council resolutions. ... I support America's 'extended hand.' But what have these proposals for dialogue produced for the international community? Nothing but more enriched uranium and more centrifuges. And, last but not least, it has resulted in a statement by Iranian leaders calling for wiping off the map a member of the United Nations (Israel, of course). What are we to do? What conclusions are we to draw? At a certain moment hard facts will force us to make decisions."

Not necessarily. Not as long as the president of the United States continues to consult, consult and consult. And then temporize, temporize and temporize. Until one day Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has his nuke. Just as one day Gentle Reader may pick up his morning paper to read that Hamid Karzai's government in Kabul has fallen and the Taliban are back -- with all that would mean to the region's security and the world's, none of it good.

John Bolton, this era's John Foster Dulles, may have been the last alert diplomat in the previous administration. He was the American ambassador to the United Nations, but naturally he had to go. He thinks much too clearly. Now he's observing the development of Iran's nuke from the sidelines. And he's noted how a nuclear program that's supposed to be for peaceful purposes shows every sign of producing enriched uranium for nuclear weapons. The other day Mr. Bolton pretty much summed up the fine mess brewing in Iran:

"The more sophisticated Iran's nuclear skills become, the more paths it has to manufacture nuclear weapons. The research-reactor bait-and-switch demonstrates convincingly why it cannot be trusted with fissile material under any peaceful guise. Proceeding otherwise would be winking at two decades of Iranian deception, which, unfortunately, Mr. Obama seems perfectly prepared to do."

What, Washington worry? When -- it may no longer be a question of if -- the Iranians announce their first nuclear test blast, this administration will doubtless issue an official statement saying it is shocked --shocked!

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.