The headline on the front page made it sound like big news: UN nuclear chief sets Iran inspection. So? Another year, another inspection by the sleepiest watchdog on the planet, the United Nations' own Maxwell Smart -- the one and only Mohammed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Agency and Office of General Permissiveness.
Director ElBaradei has just been to Tehran making nice with Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, where the two held hands for a ceremonial photograph and agreed that the UN's inspectors would soon visit Iran's latest no-longer-secret nuclear processing plant.
This one is dug into a mountain outside the holy city of Qom. It is to be inspected with all due, blind formality Sunday, October 25th. That's only a couple of weeks away, but it still gives the Iranians more than enough time to clear away any evidence of nuclear weaponization at the site. So the UN's mole-eyed inspectors will find their usual nothing.
Since the United States now has joined Europe in endorsing the mullahs' right to develop nuclear power for ever so peaceful purposes, does it really matter whether this site or the next oh-so-secret installation has started producing nuclear weapons yet?
The switch from nuclear power to nuclear weapons is less a scientific than a political decision for the Iranians at this point. And it can be made -- and carried out -- quickly.
Does anybody -- besides Director ElBaradei, of course, and our own see-no-evil State Department -- believe that Iran's little fuehrer isn't bent on producing a nuke of his own, and that his rocket scientists aren't working feverishly on a way to deliver it?
It's also an open secret (much like Iran's nuclear processing plants) that, whatever his forceful statements about how Iran won't be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, Barack Obama isn't really going to do anything to prevent it. Any more than the United Nations is. Any more than the Clinton and Bush administrations prevented North Korea's Kim Jong-Il from acquiring a nuke of his own.
Just as he's slipsliding when it comes to the war in Afghanistan despite all his tough talk about having to win it, it becomes clearer that this president is willing to accept a nuclear-armed Iran. You can tell because he's been so emphatic about never accepting such an outcome.
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.
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!