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Maj. Gen. Ya’akov Amidror, the former head of the IDF Intelligence Assessment Division, told the Jerusalem Post yesterday that North Korea’s successful nuclear test will encourage President Ahmadinejad to continue Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Moreover, Amidor argued that we must now see Iran as being protected under North Korea’s nuclear umbrella, claiming, “We cannot deal with them (Iran and North Korea) in the same manner as before.”

In July 2006, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill charged that Iranian military representatives had witnessed the July 4 North Korean missile tests. Undoubtedly, Iranian nuclear officials attended North Korea’s nuclear test. Iran has drawn much from North Korea, even to the point of building their intermediate Shahab-3 missile on an earlier North Korean Nodong design.

In another Axis of Evil nexus, Iran and North Korea are also documented beneficiaries of the black market on nuclear secrets and technology run by the Pakistani rogue scientist A.Q. Khan.

By testing a nuclear weapon now in defiance of the United States and the IAEA, North Korea has again focused attention on how few options the U.S. truly has left in dealing with the two remaining members of the original “Axis of Evil.”

Since the moment when President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright foolishly decided to give North Korea nuclear technology for “peaceful purposes,” Kim Jong-Il has made a mockery of U.S. good intentions. By now Tehran has concluded that the U.S. has been reduced to the point where the military option is the last chance we have to stop Iran’s drive toward building missile-deliverable nuclear weapons.

But truly, President Bush is in no political position to launch a pre-emptive military strike against either Iran or North Korea. Having found no WMD in Iraq as advertised prior to the war, President Bush would most likely face impeachment if the administration were to launch a unilateral strike on either country. The Bush administration is especially limited by domestic politics now that we have entered the “wag the dog” period with the November elections less than a month away.

Still, it is pointless to lament lost opportunities. Even now, the State Department should implement regime change as our official policy for both Iran and North Korea.

Now that Congress has finally passed the Iran Freedom Support Act, the administration should move aggressively to instruct the State Department to disburse funds to the many organizations worldwide that might be able to cause a Ukrainian-style democracy movement to threaten the Ahmadinejad regime from within.

Short of this, we are headed toward a coming showdown with both Iran and North Korea where neither regime shows much respect for U.N. resolutions or threats of sanctions.

This past Sunday, just before the North Korean test, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Seyed Mohammad Ali Hosseini, again reminded foreign and domestic reporters that Ahmadinejad has insisted Iran will not accept even a single day of suspending nuclear enrichment as a pre-condition of international talks resuming over Iran’s nuclear program.

Unwinding a drive toward nuclear weapons that has propelled Iranian and North Korean politics may simply not be possible now, especially if the military option is no longer a viable one given the limitations almost self-imposed on the Bush administration by the many missteps made in handling the war in Iraq.

With Iran continuing to send terrorists into Iraq, while also re-supplying Hezbollah with rockets and other military equipment delivered via Syria, a new war with Israel seems only a matter of time.

By failing to deal with Iran expeditiously at the beginning of the Bush administration’s second term, we have allowed events to move decidedly in the advantage of Iran and North Korea.

Increasingly, Israel is going to feel isolated, unable to turn to the U.S. or the world community for reliable defense against a growing menace represented by Iran. Should the outcome of North Korea’s successful nuclear test be that North Korea does extend a shield of nuclear protection over Iran, we may be approaching the days when the Samson Option is Israel’s last resort.

The consequences of Israel launching a pre-emptive military strike against Iran could easily be catastrophic. With U.S. troops in the region, even a conventionally armed Shahab-3 counter-strike on U.S. military bases in the region could kill hundreds of U.S. military personnel in a matter of hours.

With a successful nuclear test, the ground shook more than just under North Korea. The ground under the United States and Israel shook hard as well.

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