Yesterday, Israeli Gen. Yoav Gallant brought satellite surveillance photographs of Iranian nuclear installations to Crawford, Texas, to impress upon the president and the vice president that the threat of an Iranian nuclear bomb was at hand. The point of the surveillance show-and-tell was to impress upon Bush and Cheney how much the nuclear facilities in Iran have developed since 2002, reaching now what Prime Minister Sharon described as an “advanced stage.”
The administration did not have to wait for Israeli intelligence to show him those photographs. Bush and Cheney could simply have read “Atomic Iran,” in which surveillance photographs of multiple Iranian nuclear facilities are printed and discussed in detail, making the exact same point.
Israeli news sources are reporting on Wednesday morning that Sharon impressed upon the U.S. administration the urgency of the situation and danger of relying upon a time-consuming process of European negotiations to resolve the coming crisis. While the Europeans and the Iranians talk in fancy European settings, Sharon argued, the Iranians are using the time to press forward their clandestine nuclear weapons program.
Everyday, it seems we get new revelations coming out of Iran – revelations that confirm Sharon’s argument. On Tuesday, as the meetings between Sharon and Bush were taking place, there was an international news bulletin flashed from Reuters reporting that the International Agency for Atomic Energy – the United Nations “watchdog” supposedly on the case – now suspects that Iran is stashing away a secret cache of uranium. Unnamed European diplomats leaked to the news service disclosures that enriched uranium inventories from important Iranian nuclear sites did not match up. Reuters went worldwide with the report that significant amounts of uranium hexafluoride gas had been diverted from the uranium enrichment facility in Isfahan.
According to reports now surfacing, Sharon pressed the administration to realize that Iran had not stopped enriching uranium to show good faith in the negotiations with the Europeans, but simply because of technical problems. If the Europeans end up allowing Iran to continue uranium enrichment efforts, the Israeli leaders argued we are headed toward a frightening international crisis where Iran could proceed as rapidly as possible toward uranium enrichment under whatever exemptions are allowed, planning to withdraw from the commitments it made to the Europeans once the Iranian nuclear scientists were technically ready to go full speed ahead with the accelerated production of fissionable material.
From reports surfacing this morning, Iran was the major subject of discussion, overshadowing the issue of Israeli withdrawal of settlements. Sharon argued that the United States should pressure the Europeans to move the Iranian case to the U.N. Security Council as quickly as possible. The Israelis urged the president and vice president to set a clear timetable to halt the Iranian nuclear weapons push and to prepare for the coming crisis by intensifying pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear weapons program.
The nature of the talks could not be more alarming. Reading between the lines, Israel is pleading with the president to get rid of his apparent “case of the slows” that developed after he and Secretary of State Rice took their recent trips to Europe.
The Israelis have no illusion that the process of European negotiation will produce anything but more lies by the mullahs. Iran is following the path so clearly laid out by North Korea. The Israelis are begging President Bush and Vice President Cheney to avoid being tricked by Iran, the same way Kim Jong-Il made fools out of President Clinton and Secretary of State Albright. Iran’s argument that they only want nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes is as transparently a lie as were the identical statements made by North Korea during the Clinton administration.
Israel cannot afford for the world to be wrong with Iran. The mullahs have a history of funding Hezbollah and working with Hamas to launch suicide bombing attacks against Israel. The mullahs even now preach “Death to Israel” and “Death to America.”
Prime Minister Sharon is resolved not to wake up one morning and find out Iran has an atomic bomb by seeing the mushroom cloud over Tel Aviv. President Bush has already had the experience of being caught flatfooted when the 9-11 terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center. He and Vice President Cheney should think hard about the reality of an atomic 9-11. None of us can afford awakening up to that surprise.