Paul Greenberg

It wouldn't even be necessary for Teheran to use its new nuke to dominate its neighbors. For it would then have a nuclear umbrella, much like Kim Jong-Il in North Korea, under which to carry out its mischief without fear of reprisal. It might even pass a nuclear device to one of its favorite terrorist outfits -- Hezbollah in Syria, or Hamas in Gaza or some new bunch of crazies organized for just such a purpose. The possibilities are as numerous as they are scary.

The Israelis have acted against such a developing threat before. Saddam Hussein's in 1981, when they took out his nuclear reactor at Osirak. Then there was Syria's al-Kibar reactor, which met with a similar "accident" in 2007. But to launch an attack on Iran's nuclear program would be an even more ambitious and dangerous mission, one fraught with consequences of the unintended kind.

If the usual international sanctions, resolutions and general blather prove as ineffectual as they usually do, the Israelis may decide they have little choice but a pre-emptive strike. Or as they put it, nothing has been taken off the table. Including the possibility of military action. And the clock is ticking. Like a time bomb. Think about the repercussions of making such a decision, or of not making it, and either way visions of mushroom clouds begin to form in the mind.

. .

Quick, a little comic relief. This grim scenario could use it. Sure enough, this just in from Paris:

A little off-the-record gossip between the American and French presidents during a light moment at the G-20 made it into the record after all. It seems a French website that analyzes the media (like a patient on a couch) has released some snippets of a conversation between M. Sarkozy, snide as ever, and Mr. Obama, obliging as ever when it comes to standing idly by. These two leaders of the Free World could have been two girls badmouthing a third during a visit to the powder room.

"Netanyahu," said the French president, "I can't stand him. He's a liar." The American president didn't object to that less than flattering description, but neither did he explicitly agree with it. Instead, he appealed for sympathy himself: "You are sick of him, but I have to work with him every day!" Which would seem fair enough. Since the Israelis have to put up with Mr. Obama every day. Much as Americans have to.

It's good to know heads of state can trade gossip like the rest of us around the office water cooler. And that nobody takes it too seriously.

It's a funny world. When it's not terrifying.

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.