We all know what it takes to win an election now days. We all know that the candidates must cater to the center, to the undecided voters. Therefore it can prove difficult, judging from the responses of Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama during Monday night’s debate, to appreciate the distinctions between the two candidates’ positions. In terms of foreign policy we often have to look a little closer, to read between the lines, in order to find clues as to their true foreign policy, such as who their advisors are, or what their running mates say. If we go back and look at the Vice-Presidential debate, we find the following exchange particularly telling.
If there is one thing that I would readily agree with Vice President Biden about, in his recent debate with Congressman Paul Ryan, it is that “Facts are facts.”
That is why it was so difficult for me to listen to Mr. Biden declaring with a great deal of confidence and certitude that the Iranians have quite a good deal of time to go before they have a nuclear bomb.
“They are a good way away,” said Mr. Biden. “When my friend (Rep. Paul Ryan) talks about fissile material, they have to take this highly enriched uranium, get it from 20 percent up, then they have to be able to have something to put it in. There is no weapon that the Iranians have at this point…”
There are, however, a few facts that the Vice President avoided telling us:
1.) The most difficult aspect of the entire nuclear weapons project is the uranium enrichment part. That is why the international community has been so focused on that aspect of it. It takes a good deal of time to enrich the uranium to 20 percent level of purity. The Iranians already have enough low enriched uranium for several (3 to 4) nuclear weapons at the 20 percent level, but for weapons grade uranium, they need to get it to a higher level of purity of 90 percent.
However, as Former Director of the CIA James Woolsey once explained to me, it is essential to understand that the purer the level of enrichment, the less interval of time it takes to get to the next level.
Getting to 20 percent is difficult, and it is subsequently easier to get from 20 to 50 percent, and then from 50 to 90 percent.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal report of October 9th, noted scientific experts at the Institute for Science and International Security have stated that Iran is only two to four months away from the ninety per cent enrichment level. As I write these words, centrifuges are assiduously spinning in plants in Fordow, near the holy city of Qum, in Natanz, Busheir, Isfahan and Arak.
2.) Many, including our Vice President, are under the erroneous assumption that a weapons delivery system would be worked on only after the process of uranium enrichment was complete; i.e., that the procedure is sequential. But the evidence is clear that the Iranians have been working on a delivery mechanism for years, simultaneously with their enrichment.
This past Sept. 25, Iran test fired missiles at a military exercise designed to reach the Strait of Hormuz. This is the third missile drill the Iranians have had in the last four months.
We know that the Iranians have been working consistently to expand the range for these missiles. The only question is whether they know how to assemble and attach the enriched uranium to the missile warhead. I have been told that that is infinitely less complex than is the enrichment process.
3.) If there is one thing the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate taught us, or should have taught us, it is that nobody can prove anything about the Iranians with any degree of certitude. In an unusual admission a few weeks ago, the Director of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Fereydoon Abbasi, was quoted as saying in Al Hayat that the Iranian government has provided false information in the past to protect its nuclear program. He stated that “sometimes the Iranians present certain weaknesses that they don’t have, and sometimes, they present certain strengths that they don’t have.”
As Ambassador Dore Gold has stated, “By admitting that their diplomacy has been based on a series of lies, the Iranians put into doubt whether any of their statements can be relied upon.”
The Iranians are also masters of the Islamic art of “Taqiyah,” which is derived from the Arabic “to shield (oneself). This permits dissimulation and even lying in the furtherance of Islamic law, including when pursuing goals against the so-called “unbelievers.”
4.) What we do know is that the Iranian military facility at Parchin has been used for trigger testing of a nuclear weapon, to produce the explosive charges which set off the chain reactions necessary for a nuclear explosion. We have seen aerial footage of trucks and other vehicles clearing and razing the earth, bulldozing buildings, and moving materials out of the back. Occasionally, the site has been covered by a pink tarp, as if something were being hidden.
We know that in 2003, there was a research and test site called Lavizan –Shan. When the IAEA began to get suspicious of what was going on there, it was ultimately razed to the ground, with top soil put on it, and made into a city park.
5.) We also know that with his expressed over-confidence in the amount of time that the West has before a nuclear Iran, the Vice President sends the Iranians a dangerous signal that we are not serious, and also sends a signal to the Israelis that they are very much, on their own, particularly under an Obama administration.
This is not the first time the U.S. has sent a “bad” signal to Israel regarding Iran, and almost a nod of approval to Iran. On August 31st, General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, he did not “wish to be complicit” in a unilateral strike on Tehran. His use of the word “complicit” was both hostile towards Israel and morally objectionable, as though he was saying that protecting one’s nation from the threat of genocide is a crime.
6.) We also know that the Iranian nuclear bomb is not just a threat to Israel, but to the entire world. The Iranians would like to take advantage of the current state of chaos that the so-called “Arab Spring” has wrought to rearrange the order of the entire Arab and Muslim world, and claim the mantle of Shiite hegemony. An Iranian nuclear bomb would surely create a nuclear arms race in every capital in the Middle East, as has been hinted at by other Muslim nations like Saudi Arabia, and it would be the most de-stabilizing single factor in that region of the world since the great European powers redrew the borders after World War I.
7.) Israel is only the “Minor Satan.” The United States is the Great Satan.”
We know that almost the very first thing that the Iranians did as soon as the Khomeini Revolution occurred in 1979 was to seize control of the American embassy and take our embassy officials hostage. This was a declaration of war on the United States, and this Iranian war against the U.S. has continued to the current day. It is Iranian manufactured IEDs that have killed so many Americans, and caused many more American troops to come home from Iraq or Afghanistan missing a leg or an arm.
It is Iran that tried to blow up a restaurant on American soil with a Saudi diplomat inside. It is Iran that was responsible for the 1983 bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks that killed 241 marines. It is Iran who has been identified as the “world’s leading sponsor of terrorism and terrorist financing” by the Secretary of State. It is Iran which has been upheld in court as having facilitated the terror attack on 9/11.
The false sense of certitude on Iranian progress in developing nuclear weapons that the Vice President conveyed at the VP debate is not at all helpful when dealing with a destabilizing nuclear menace such as Iran. I understand that the Vice President would like to appear as the non-trigger happy candidate, but looking at a despotic crazed regime like the Iranians through rose-colored glasses ultimately just empowers the mullahs.
Sarah N. Stern is Founder and President of EMET, the Endowment for Middle East Truth, an unabashedly pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy shop, in our nation’s capital