On Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cheerfully announced in a televised speech that Iran has now joined the club of countries with "industrial-level" nuclear enrichment -- confirming that Iran has begun enriching uranium with 3,000 centrifuges.
Exactly a year ago, Monday, Iran revealed they had 164 centrifuges. Until Monday they were believed to have increased that number only to 328. Experts explain that when the number of operational centrifuges reaches about 50,000, they can build nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad went on to brag that world powers cannot stop Iran's nuclear drive, and that his country's atomic program is on its way "to the summit" -- where, presumably, one would find something more than a peaceful nuclear electricity plant.
I might add, when, a year ago, I and others expressed alarm at the 164 centrifuges Iran had then developed, I was told by a number of experts that due to the remarkably complex and sensitive nature of the technology of integrating centrifuges, it was much harder, technically, to move from a couple hundred to several thousand. Apparently, now a year later, that formidable technical challenge has been surmounted.
Keep in mind, the CIA's assessment -- last year -- that Iran was five to 10 years away from being able to develop nuclear weapons presumably based that guess, at least in part, on the experts' expectation that moving from hundreds to thousands of centrifuges was more formidable than it turned out to be.
Adding piquancy to Ahmadinejad's disturbing announcement, the [Iranian] Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani further threatened: "If they [world powers] continue to pressure Iran over its peaceful nuclear activities we have no other choice but to follow parliament's order and review our membership of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty."
Following the release of this news Monday, the hot big news stories on cable that afternoon were: Don Imus's apology for saying rude things about a college women's basketball team, a shooting at an office building in Troy, N.Y., President Bush's umpteenth announcement that he really does want to pass a "comprehensive" immigration bill this year, and the late spring snow storm in the Midwest and Northeast last weekend. I guess Iran advancing surprisingly quickly toward a nuclear capacity didn't make the newsiness cut.
Further, and curiously, on Monday, the world price of oil went down $2.77, described on the business news due to "reduced tensions" between Iran and the West after the release of the British hostages. In other words, millions of worldwide investor decisions judged the news of Iran's nuclear development to not be increasing tensions.
Surely, wiser more worldly judgments could have been expected from the United States Department of State. But if the television news merely missed the story, the State Department misconstrued its significance. A State Department spokesman was briefed to respond that this development just signaled a "missed opportunity" by Iran.
For those of us with a historical bent, that "missed opportunity" by Iran immediately recalled to mind the unfortunate assertion by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in April 1940 that Hitler had "missed the bus" and lost the initiative in the early months of World War II.
Regrettably for old Neville, a few weeks after saying that Hitler had missed the bus, Herr Hitler invaded, defeated and occupied Norway, and then, in short order, Holland, Denmark and France -- and almost, but not quite, bombed Britain into submission. When the Norway invasion started in May 1940 (three weeks after he had "missed the bus"), and Chamberlain came to the floor of the House of Commons to make excuses, the chamber was filled with derisive cries from all sides of "They [The Nazis] missed the bus." A few days later, Chamberlain resigned his office, and the ultimate British victory in WWII was foreshadowed when the king asked Winston Churchill to form a government.
One wonders where today's Churchill might be, whose accession to the American presidency would prefigure successful American opposition to Iran's horrifying nuclear plans.
For heaven's sake, Iran hasn't missed an opportunity to advance its nuclear interest -- we have missed another opportunity to defeat those plans.
And for those who argue that diplomacy is the path to safety in stopping the Iranian bomb -- a glance at the news these last few weeks might suggest that it is Iran -- not the West -- that is better playing that ancient art. It was the British -- historically masters of diplomacy -- who were humiliated by the Iranians over the Royal Navy and Marines hostage incident. In its aftermath, The Dubai Khaleej Times, The Pakistan Daily Times and other Muslim news outlets proclaimed messages similar to that of The Saudi Arabia Arab News: "This is a triumph for the Iranians."
While Western media reports of our diplomatic meanderings encourage Westerners to believe we are being oh so civilized, prudent and un-cowboy-like as we gently and diplomatically nudge Iranian intentions away from their lust for nuclear weapons -- large segments of the Muslim world are cheering on every radical Muslim triumph over a "decadent" Christian West that is proving itself ripe for the pickings, and for historic civilizational revenge.