How Serious Is the World About Stopping an Iranian Bomb?

The announcement at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh by the U.S., France, and Great Britain that Iran has been secretly constructing a smaller version of its nuclear enrichment plant at Natanz is a clear indication that those who have been concerned about the Iranian nuclear program have been right all along.

“They have cheated three times,” one senior administration official with access to the intelligence said of the Iranians late on Thursday evening. “And they have now been caught three times.”

Actually, you can make that four times caught cheating if you include:

1. The actual existence of the Iranian nuclear program that the Iranians lied about for more than a decade.

2. The existence of the underground nuclear facility at Natanz which was unearthed by an Iranian dissident group and which the Iranians had been denying existed for years.

3. Iranian lies about their desire not to build nuclear weapons -- until we penetrated their computer network two years ago and discovered they were trying to design a bomb. (Note: the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran from 2007 determined the regime had stopped trying to build a bomb in 2003.)

4. This new revelation about a facility that Western intelligence has known about for several years, while at the same time the Iranians were telling the International Atomic Energy Agency that there were no other nuclear facilities in Iran.

The question asks itself: why would a nation that claims to be interested only in the nuclear fuel cycle hide a facility capable of secretly enriching uranium to the 85-90% level necessary to construct a bomb?

Nothing Iran has ever publicly said about the extent of its nuclear program has ever proven to be true. The have brazenly and repeatedly lied about matters vital to the peace and security of the world.

What's the "world" going to do about it?

Why should anyone believe the Iranians when they claim they have no interest in constructing a bomb? And if no one believes them, then the world has two choices: try and prevent Iran from developing a bomb or learn to live with them possessing it.

Obviously, the milquetoast Security Council sanctions we have applied to Iran previously have failed to convince them to stop their drive to build nuclear weapons -- or at least develop the capability to build them in a matter of months. Searching for a solution short of war, Western nations will now seek much tougher sanctions against the regime in hopes that it will bring concessions by Iran at the bargaining table in Geneva, where talks are scheduled to begin on October 1.

The major element of any new sanctions will almost certainly be a cutoff by the world to Iran of refined gasoline. Despite sitting on a sea of oil, the Iranians import about 40% of their fuel needs from abroad. Such a cutoff would not only bring the Iranian economy to a standstill; it would more than likely feed the discontent already boiling over in the streets as a result of the stolen election last summer.

GOP House Whip Eric Cantor took advantage of the revelation about the secret Iranian facility to push legislation that would bring about the fuel sanction:

The existence of a second uranium enrichment facility not only undercuts the administration’s policy toward Iran, but leaves little doubt that terrorist nations are not to be trusted or negotiated with diplomatically. Congress should act immediately to give the president the tools he needs to implement sanctions on Iran by passing the bipartisan Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act.

But whether the rest of the world, including Russia and China, would support such stiff measures against Iran is another question. The Chinese have found it profitable to use the Asian spot market in refined gasoline to make considerable deliveries to Tehran using third parties.

And Russia is extremely reluctant to do anything that would upset its profitable commercial ties with Iran -- especially in the areas of modern arms sales and helping the regime with its "peaceful" nuclear program.

Both nations have vetoes in the United Nations Security Council and could potentially derail any effort to impose meaningful sanctions on Iran that might give the regime second thoughts about their enrichment program. Can they be convinced to play for such stiff sanctions?