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On her first world tour as secretary of state, Condi Rice has played out a very interesting message regarding Iran.

First, she suggested diplomacy could solve the Iranian problem. To stress this theme, Dr. Rice made it clear that war was not an option currently on the table. The EU-3 and the mullahs smiled and breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Yet, the operative word here was “currently.” Dr. Rice also mentioned, almost in passing, that the United States would leave all options open, including war.

When Dr. Rice got to Brussels, the message appeared to sharpen. “The Iranians need to hear that if they are unwilling to take the deal, really, that the Europeans are giving … then the Security Council looms.” Did the message change? No, not really. The administration’s position remains clear: Iran will not be permitted to enrich uranium. That is the underlying message – the message that has not varied.

What the Bush administration is demanding is that the mullahs must make a clear stop to their development of nuclear weapons. If Iran does not agree to stop a nuclear weapons program, or if we do not get a reliable means of verifying that they have abandoned a nuclear weapons program, then the United States is going to the Security Council. Diplomacy can work, but it must produce a transparent, verifiable agreement from the Iranians to give up their ambitions to have an atomic bomb.

Does the Bush administration think the Iranians are likely to agree seriously to stop developing nuclear weapons? Probably not. But if the administration didn’t endorse the negotiations gambit, then the Democrats would start screaming that Bush was “trigger happy.” Having pounded Bush that Iraq was a pre-emptive war, the Democrats are primed to scream bloody murder if Bush were to attack Iran as a first choice.

Sen. Rockefeller – a tried and true partisan bitterly opposed to any U.S. intelligence effort aimed at protecting national security – has already sounded off that intelligence about Iran needs to be examined so we don’t make the same mistake we made in Iraq. What mistake? The weapons of mass destruction, of course. A gaggle of Democrats – including Sens. Kerry, Kennedy and Biden – are itching to sound off that the administration has failed a second time. We attacked Iraq and Saddam Hussein did not have WMD stockpiles and now we are ready to attack Iran and all they have is centrifuges.

These are the same Democrats who would demand another 9-11 commission to blame Bush if the mullahs were to develop nuclear weapons they could detonate over Tel Aviv or smuggle into New York city to detonate as a terror attack.

What is the alternative recommended by the Democrats? Simple. Negotiate, follow the Europeans, talk until everybody is blue in the face and the mullahs have developed a bomb clandestinely. This week, Russia also signaled that they are willing to finalize their agreement to ship the mullahs the nuclear fuel they need to activate the reactor at Bushehr.

That the Democrats failed once with this same strategy – in North Korea under the Clinton administration – did not wise them up at all. The strategy failed there to stop Kim Jong Il from developing nuclear weapons, so why not trust another rogue state and assume that the mullahs would never lie?

The American public was not willing to put the nation’s national security in the hands of John Kerry for one very good reason – just like he did in Vietnam, John Kerry doesn’t seem to mind once again if our sworn enemies beat us in the Middle East – just so we continue to look good to the French.

Pretty soon the American people are going to get the point. The Democrats have become the party of “NO” – no alternatives, no support for America, no anything except “I hate Bush” rhetoric, sometimes supplemented with what sounds like “I hate America” sub-themes.

Teddy Kennedy is sounding simply angry these days. Between Kennedy growling, Howard Dean screaming, Al Gore pouting and John Kerry feeling sorry for himself that he lost the election, the Democratic Party is not looking very appealing to anybody … unless of course you hate Bush.

Condi Rice has given a clear and consistent message to the world. Sure, we’ll go the diplomatic route with the mullahs – just so we get to the right destination on time. If the mullahs don’t give up their ambitions to possess nuclear weapons, right now, then we will go to the Security Council very soon. Most likely the Security Council will be totally ineffective, adding to their undistinguished “oil-for-food-scandal” performance in Iraq.

So, where do we go from the Security Council? Well, war is an option that is not on the table “for now,” but when diplomacy fails, that may change. With the Democrats in Congress, going to war takes a process and that process has to involve steps – first we let the European Union conduct negotiations, then we go to the United Nations, even if both are really just a waste of time.

But don’t get confused that Bush has lost sight of where he is headed. The president will not deviate from his pursuit of freedom in the Middle East, nor will he permit the mullahs to have a nuclear bomb, no matter how loud the Democrats scream and shout, or how hard they cry and pout.

When Bush talks about Iran, he speaks in firm, simple words that cannot be misinterpreted. His advice to the mullahs: “Don’t develop a nuclear weapon.” This is a message the mullahs with their terrorist mentality will simply take as a challenge. They will most certainly fail to take the advice.

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