The pain­less re­ply to a death threat

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - Wesley Pruden is ed­i­tor in chief of The Times.

The more the rad­i­cal Mus­lims huff and puff, the more cer­tain el­e­ments of the gov­ern­ments of the West are ea­ger to run and hide.

This might be re­as­sur­ing strat­egy for the eas­ily fright­ened, but the fa­tal flaw in this strat­egy is that there aren’t any places left to hide.

The New York Times, in­spired by the fic­tional Al­fred E. (“What? Me Worry?”) Neuman, re­ports with a tone of undis­guised dis­dain that se­nior of­fi­cials in the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion and lead­ing Repub­li­can con­gress­men have con­cluded that U.S. intelligence agen­cies are de­lib­er­ately play­ing down the threat that Iran poses to the United States and the West. Nat­u­rally the Democrats, who re­gard Ge­orge W. Bush as the source of evil in the world, agree with Mr. Neuman that the rosiest as­sess­ment is al­ways cor­rect.

When the Ira­nian gov­ern­ment fi­nally replied last week to the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil de­mand that it halt its ura­nium-en­rich­ment pro­gram by Aug. 31 to qual­ify for cer­tain in­cen­tives, the an­swer, as a se­nior Is­raeli of­fi­cial rightly calls it, is “flip­ping the world the bird.” The mid­dle-fin­ger salute was not what the “six pow­ers” had in mind, but it’s sat­is­fac­tion enough for Al­fred E. Neuman, cer­tain of the world pow­ers, the Democrats in Congress and the edi­tors of the New York Times. The Rus­sians and the Chi­nese quickly called the Ira­nian of­fer a will­ing­ness to keep talk­ing even if the ne­go­ti­a­tions never go any­where.

The Ira­ni­ans, sur­prised that its ter­ror­ist client Hezbol­lah sur­vived a few rounds longer than Arab states ever have in a match with Is­rael, may soon have more than a bird to flip to the civ­i­lized world. The Mid­dle East Me­dia Re­search In­sti­tute (MEMRI), which closely mon­i­tors what is said and re­ported in the re­gion, re­ports that the Ira­nian news ser­vice al-Borz, which has re­li­able sources within the Tehran gov­ern­ment, pre­dicts that Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad will an­nounce Iran’s “nu­clear birth” on the first an­niver­sary of the es­tab­lish­ment of his gov­ern­ment later this month. The Tehran Times, which is re­garded as loosely af­fil­i­ated with the gov­ern­ment, sug­gests that it may al­ready be too late to abort a nu­clear birth. “If the West is seek­ing to im­pede Iran’s

nu­clear in­dus­try,” the



last week, “it

should re­al­ize that Iran

has passed this stage.” And if not now, soon.

The intelligence bu­reau­crats at Lan­g­ley share none of this con­cern. The CIA an­a­lysts, who demon­strated their in­ep­ti­tude in the run-up to the Iraq war, are de­ter­mined now to be­lieve that Iran is years away from be­ing able to build a nu­clear weapon. This as­sess­ment is shared by, in ad­di­tion to Al­fred E. Neuman, most of the other U.S. intelligence agen­cies.

“When the intelligence com­mu­nity says Iran is five to 10 years away from a nu­clear weapon,” Newt Gin­grich, the for­mer speaker of the House, tells the New York Times, “I ask: ‘If North Korea were to ship them a nuke to­mor­row, how close would they be then?’ The intelligence com­mu­nity is ded­i­cated to pre­dict­ing the least dan­ger­ous world pos­si­ble.”

Ge­orge W. Bush no longer talks about Is­lam as “the re­li­gion of peace,” though many mil­lions of Mus­lims are still as harm­less as Methodists or Men­non­ites as they ever were, but the cau­tion on the part of the intelligence ser­vices serves the timid­ity in Wash­ing­ton and Lon­don not to re­gard Iran as the im­mi­nent threat it was only months ago. Bri­tain’s pop­u­la­tion has at last passed the 60 mil­lion mark, and the bad news is that the gains, such as they are, re­flect the ar­rival of Mus­lim im­mi­grants from South Asia scorn­ful of as­sim­i­la­tion. Ge­orge W.’s sink­ing poll num­bers dis­cour­age bold­ness here.

The well-con­nected Jerusalem Post quotes “a se­nior source” within the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment say­ing that the Is­raelis have con­cluded that Is­rael may have to “go it alone” in deal­ing with the threat of a nu­clear Iran. “The Ira­ni­ans know the world will do noth­ing,” he says. “This is sim­i­lar to the world’s at­tempts to ap­pease Hitler in the 1930s — they are try­ing to feed the beast.”

The Is­raelis bought time for the civ­i­lized world once be­fore, when it took out Sad­dam Hus­sein’s nu­clear re­ac­tor at Osirik in June 1981. The lead­ers of the West cried great croc­o­dile tears in pub­lic, and said prayers of thanks­giv­ing in private. Run­ning up an­other such debt is tempt­ing.

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