Published on TheHill.com on October 20, 2009
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has fallen for Iran’s line that it is not developing nuclear weapons, but only wants the ability to develop one to achieve its place in the sun among the great nations of the earth.
In an interview on a Sunday show and in a leak in The New York Times that seems to have come from her (since it uses the same language), she notes that “there’s a small space for doubt [about Iran's intention to build a bomb] because there are some contrary indicators. There is no doubt in my mind that they want nuclear energy and nuclear power, which they are entitled to, to be able to use it for peaceful purposes. The real problem is once you do that and you get what’s called a breakout capacity, it’s not long before you could do the other [build a bomb]. So that’s why this is so important to address now.”
Pressed to comment on a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it was clear Iran was headed toward building a bomb, Hillary demurred.
“Well, they — we — we are doing this [pushing for sanctions] because we think they’re heading there. But whether they want to get what’s called the breakout capacity and stop, knowing that they could then move forward, that’s where the question comes.”
Wow. The same theme — that Iran just wants to be able to make a bomb, not to actually make one — was annunciated in a New York Times story that likely had its origins in Hillary’s newfound doubts.
Why the hell would Iran want to develop highly enriched uranium if not to make a bomb? And why would it enrich uranium in the first place if it did not want to enrich it enough to build a weapon? Why would it spend billions and incur all manner of international obloquy and sanctions just to get bragging rights and be able to say that it could build a bomb?
Does the nation with the world’s second-largest reserves of oil really need nuclear power to turn on its lights? Or is Iran so green that it can’t stand to contribute to global climate change?
That our secretary of State is naÃ¯ve and inexperienced enough to fall for this line is incredible. That she might have been president is worse. And that the real president may be falling for it, too, is beyond worse.
Ever since the Cold War started, it has been an article of faith that, in assessing enemy power, we measure his capacity and not his intentions. Intentions can change in the blink of an eye. Capacity endures forever.
Iran has a huge incentive to try to fool the world for just a few more months. Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton warns that it has purchased from
Russia — and already paid for — a highly advanced anti-aircraft missile system that would be exceedingly effective against every bomber except for stealth aircraft, of which Israel has none.
Has it been delivered? Is it installed? Are the Iranians trained to use it? Nobody knows. But Bolton is clear that once it is operational, as he puts it, “the military option is out.”
So Iran’s game is obviously to stall Israeli action by deceiving the world into believing that it merely wants the capacity to go nuclear — “breakout” capability — rather than to build an actual bomb.
Iran even proffers a willingness to lend its stock of somewhat enriched uranium to other nations — presumably its buddy Russia — for further enrichment. (Presumably, the Russians would not enrich it all the way to the point where it could be weaponized.)
Iran says it wants enriched fuel to power a medical research facility. The West hopes that if Iran lent out its supply of slightly enriched uranium, it would not have enough in situ to enrich the amount it would need for a bomb. But, obviously, once it gets the uranium back, it can do with it as it pleases. If it agrees to inspection, it can always kick the inspectors out.
While Iran is negotiating “in good faith,” there would be hell to pay if Israel attacked “prematurely.” So, by enticing the world with this complex scheme, all the while enriching God knows how much uranium in secret, Iran hopes to prolong the negotiations until it has the air defense system. Then the military option — which is Iran’s sole motivation for even participating in these talks — will be closed and Israel will not be able to attack.
That Hillary Clinton would allow herself to be conned into believing that Iran doesn’t really, really, really want to build — much less use — a big, bad bomb would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous.