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Obama: Which Way on Iran?

As much as President Obama would like to focus on domestic issues, he will be facing serious foreign policy problems in the near future. The most important, perhaps, is the threat of a nuclear Iran. The reasons why Iran obtaining a nuclear device is so dangerous are outlined in this thorough and important editorial by Mortimer Zuckerman, editor of U.S.News.  "Nuclear Iran," he writes, "will be a threat to U.S. national security, worldwide energy security, the efficacy of multilateralism, and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty."  If allowed to succeed,  Zuckerman warns, Iran's mullahs might become overconfident enough to believe that it can operate through its proxy forces without any fear of reprisals from the United States and the European powers. It will thus be emboldened to use terrorism towards any power that wishes to pursue peace with Israel.

In addition, he suggests that if Iran moves ahead on its path to nuclear arms,  "tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands would join radical Islamist groups in the belief that Islamism is on the march." Zuckerman raises all the issues so many ignore. The mullahs may not be rational,(despite the hopes of people like Roger Cohen) which means that the United States  "just cannot take the risk of nuclear missiles in the hands of a clerical regime that preaches genocide."

The big question is simple. What will  President Barack Obama's response be to this growing threat? Will he, as Zuckerman and others hope, increase sanctions, institute new tough economic measures to hurt the regime, make clear that a military option is not off the table, institute an arms embargo, ban exports to Iran of gas and refined products so transport can be crippled, boycott their banking system, and ban spare parts being sold to Iran's oil industry?

Or will he continue to tell Iran's leaders that we understand their needs and their goals, are not out to harm their regime, want peaceful relations with "The Islamic Republic of Iran," as Obama put it, and insist on a path of "aggressive personal diplomacy." We know that one thing Obama can do, is talk, and talk and talk.  Will all his talking, waiting and persistence end up with Iran announcing they have a bomb, and Obama concluding that we'll simply have to live with it? As William Kristol put it, "President Obama seems to evince no sense of urgency about Iran's nuclear program." Kristol fears his comments seem to suggest that Obama has already accepted the inevitability of Iran's obtaining nuclear weapons, and is ready to adopt to it.

In the President's press conference, he expanded slightly on his letter to Iran with these few words: "When it comes to Iran, you know, we did a video sending a message to the Iranian people and the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran. And some people said, ‘Well, they did not immediately say they were eliminating nuclear weapons and stop funding terrorism.' Well, we didn't expect that. We expect that we're going to make steady progress on this front."