Jewish World Review Sept. 18, 2003 / 21 Elul, 5763
The Ayatollahs’ bomb: An invulnerability strategy
n recent weeks, Iran's
supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been receiving many senior
clerics for happy embraces. They have come in unusually large numbers
to congratulate him. According to Iranians I talk to, they believe that
Iran now has all the necessary components for an atomic bomb or two or
three, and all that remains is to assemble the damned things.
That would track
with the mullahs' clear international strategy, which is to stall for
time. They think that if they can make it into early 2004, they'll be
safe from us for at least eleven months, as Bush would not attack during
an election year (never mind that Bush has no intention of attacking at
all, we're talking about how they see things). In the meantime,
they expect to be able to test a nuclear device, which will, they think,
transform them into the North Korea of the Middle East. That is, invulnerable
So the stall is on,
in all directions. The negotiations with the Atomic Energy Agency are
dragged out, and you can be sure the Iranians will insist that their parliament
approve anything agreed to by the negotiators. The talks with State Department
emissaries apparently in the hopes of getting the mullahs to turn
over some of their al Qaeda allies (not bloody likely), drag on and on.
Time is working in their favor, just as the president said it would.
None of this has
any great effect on the Bush administration, because they believe the
latest assessment from the intel guys, who say that Iran is a good 3-5
years away from having the bomb. I wonder how they arrive at such estimates,
and I especially wonder why any president would take them seriously, since
we have always been surprised at how quickly others have developed atomic
We were surprised
by Stalin, and by the Chinese, and by the Indians and the Paks. Hell,
we were even surprised at the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests a few
years back. And we were apparently surprised when the North Koreans told
us they really did have a weapons program, although it was clear to everyone
except Madeline Albright (who was too busy dancing with the dictators
of Pyongyang to be able to think about it).
Furthermore, I don't
think we have very good information about Iran. Almost the whole Iranian
nuclear program is underground. Deep underground, thanks to the Chinese
and the North Koreans who helped dig the tunnels and secure areas, mostly
underneath the cities. Maybe so deep underground than even our jazzy satellite
technologies can't figure out what's going on down there. And I doubt
we know just how much enriched uranium was smuggled into Iran from Iraq
in the years leading up to the war.
this is one time the mullahs may outwit themselves. As things stand, this
administration is going to do everything possible to forestall a day of
reckoning for the mullahs, hoping that the brave Iranian people will do
it for us (and providing some assistance, as in the case of the new, secure
Internet server now at the disposal of Iranian users).
But if Iran turns
up with the bomb, that would add urgency to our ongoing war against the
terror masters in Tehran.
Let's hope we have
time to do that before they use the thing.
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JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of, most recently, ""The War Against the Terror Masters," Comment by clicking here.
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© 2001, Michael Ledeen