Iran close to uranium enrichment -- so what do we do now?
What does this mean? -- "If engineers encounter no major technical problems, Iran could manufacture enough highly enriched uranium to build a bomb within three years, much more quickly than the common estimate of five to 10 years."
Iran denies that it intends to build nuclear weapons, but its unwillingness to use Russian-enriched uranium (see here) suggests otherwise. The U.S. and the major European powers "believe Iran intends to build nuclear weapons".
Is a diplomatic solution possible? Perhaps, but is Iran even willing to give up control of its nuclear program, or at least over the enrichment of uranium? That seems unlikely, given its moves to date. Could Iran be bought off? Perhaps, but what would it take? North Korea wants aid, that much is clear, but does Iran? In addition, who would lead the diplomatic effort? Whatever consensus there is on the U.N. Security Council is fragile. "The European Union and the Americans want to exert vigorous pressure on Iran... The U.S. and EU are willing to use a U.N. procedure that gives Security Council resolutions the force of law, and to impose sanctions." But "Russia and China would be willing to allow Iran to retain a small cascade of centrifuges for research purposes."
Before there can be a diplomatic solution to this escalating crisis, there needs to be some sort of agreement between the U.S. and the E.U. on one side and Russia and China on the other. Without the latter, forget the former.
Regardless, how long would such diplomacy take? If Iran is already close to being able to enrich its own uranium, there isn't much time. And that -- if we're serious about stopping Iran from becoming a nuclear state -- brings us to the prospect of non-diplomatic measures. And that invariably means either sanctions or military action of some sort.
I'm less and less confident that diplomacy will work. Sanctions won't work if the major powers can't even get on the same page. So are we ready to consider military options, such as tactical strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities?
The U.S. is bogged down in Iraq, to be sure, but the Iranian threat simply cannot be ignored.
(Make sure to read the whole L.A. Times article. This is serious stuff.)