The leader of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once said that Israel must be "wiped off the map." And now Iran stands poised to have its finger on the trigger of a nuclear weapon, yet the Obama Administration continues to remain virtually silent on the nascent threat, all while the clouds amassing over the Iranian Peninsula are growing too dark to ignore.
Yesterday, following news that Iran plans to triple its output of higher-grade uranium, the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany issued a joint statement calling for Iran to provide more information about its nuclear intentions and that the country's nuclear drive is causing "deep concern" to a number of world powers. Meanwhile, the United States issued sanctions on Iran's police chief and three government entities it says are involved in the brutal repression of Iranian citizens.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Heritage's James Phillips writes that Iran's uranium enrichment program has increased by 84 percent since 2009, according to a new study by the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, and author Greg Jones projects that Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to fuel a nuclear weapon in about 62 days if it chose to do so.
According to unconfirmed reports, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has acquired two missile warheads capable of being armed with a nuclear weapon. And a recently leaked U.N. report described suspected ballistic missile technology exchanges between North Korea and Iran, with the technology transiting through an unnamed neighboring country, which several U.N. diplomats, under the condition of anonymity, have identified as China.
Apart from Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, the country is also fomenting political unrest in the Middle East. Heritage's Peter Brookes wrote in March of news that NATO forces in April seized 50 Iranian rockets destined for the Taliban in support of its expected spring offensive. The weapons could have been used to target U.S. and coalition forces as well as terror weapons against population centers.
Then there's Iran's plan to further eviscerate the freedom of speech by creating its own version of the Internet -- yet another step in the repression of its people.
But these threats upon threats only saw scant mention in yesterday's Senate confirmation hearing for Secretary of Defense nominee Leon Panetta who remarked that he would address Iran's nuclear activities in a closed session while acknowledging that "there's no question they continue to try to develop some kind of nuclear capability."
It's not the first time a member of the Obama Administration has skimmed over the issue, and it starts at the very top. In a major speech on the Middle East last month, President Obama only said that "our opposition to Iran's intolerance and Iran's repressive measures, as well as its illicit nuclear program and its support of terror, is well known." His soft words belied the serious nature of Iran's growing threat.
The President's refusal to honestly confront the severity of the Iranian threat -- let alone condemn the regime's actions -- is in keeping with his pursuit of his new way in the Middle East, an Obama Doctrine characterized by charming one's enemies rather than recognizing the realities of the world. Heritage's James Carafano writes:
Once in the White House, President Obama focused laser-like on a "charm offensive" with Iran. When voices rose against the regime in Tehran in the wake of a disputed national election, Obama offered virtually no support for the cries for freedom. Nevertheless, the "playing nice initiative" with Tehran fell flat. Today, the regime is more aggressive than ever—backing a terrorist take-over of the government in Lebanon, snubbing Western nuclear negotiators, and promoting an Islamist agenda across the region.
At this point, though, the President's charm offensive isn't working. Now is the time to not only acknowledge the problem but push back on Tehran, counter its quest for regional dominance, press for aggressive implementation of existing sanctions, fight for more comprehensive sanctions, and rally international condemnation of Iran’s human rights abuses.