Iran’s test launch of a multi-stage rocket shows it is getting closer to developing long-range missiles that can reach the United States.
The Feb. 3 launch comes as senior U.S. intelligence officials say Tehran now has enriched sufficient uranium to building a nuclear weapon. The hardline Islamic regime, which regularly threatens Israel, has not yet decided whether to build such a device, the officials say.
But the combined missile launch-enriched uranium development means Iran will one day become a nuclear power, in the opinion of a leading House Republican.
"We’re moving quickly to the point where we’re just going to have to recognize no one is willing to put in place a strategy that stops Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and the conclusion then is, the only conclusion you can walk away with is, somewhere along the line Iran will develop a nuclear weapons capability," Rep. Pete Hoekstra, Michigan Republican, told HUMAN EVENTS. "So the only question is, when not if."
President Bush approved an anti-Iran sanctions policy that drew support from NATO nations, but not Russia, an Iranian ally. The economic sanctions have done little to dissuade radical President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad from pursuing mass enrichment of uranium that can then be turned into fissile, or bomb-making, material.
In fact, the Times of London obtained secret Iranian documents that show it is working on nuclear bomb triggers. What’s more, the administration disclosed last year Iran was operating a secret enrichment facility near the city of Qom, despite its international obligations to notify the United Nations.
President Obama campaigned on holding direct talks with Iran without pre-conditions. After a year, the administration has made no progress in convincing Iran to agree to intrusive safeguards that ensure it cannot make highly enriched uranium.
"President Bush tried for years. Obama now tried his new strategy of engagement," Hoekstra said. "Clearly, no one has developed an effective strategy to slow down or stop their program."
For now, the administration is augmenting missile defense systems to protect Iran’s jittery neighbors.
The nation’s military leaders, led by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have all but dismissed the idea of conducting air strikes to destroy Tehran’s nuclear enterprises.
"I’m not ready to commit our military forces to stop them. No," he said. "I think even Israel using their military to stop them has all kinds of difficulties with it. They’ve harden their structures. They have dispersed them and again without more director international cooperation, Israel might be able to delay their program but I don’t think they’re in a position to stop it."
HUMAN EVENTS, citing sources close to Jerusalem, has reported that Israel is on a tight time frame on a decision to bomb Iran. The sources said that once Israeli leaders believe Iran is reaching the point of no-return — that is it has dispersed its components so the entire system can never be destroyed — they may ordered air strikes.
For Hoekstra, last week’s launch of a rocket designed to put satellites in space is a sure sign where Iran is headed.
"I think their objective is to develop missiles capable of a long-range reach which would include the United States and that would have the capability of carrying a nuclear warhead," he said.
Not scary enough?
Here is what National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair told Congress last week:
"We assessed that Iran has the scientific, the technical, the industrial capacity to produce enough highly rich uranium for a weapon in the next few years, and eventually to produce a nuclear weapon. The central issue is a political decision by Iran to do so."
Here is what Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, Defense Intelligence Agency director, said:
"With more than 8,000 installed centrifuges at Natanz, Iran now has enough low enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon, if it further enriched and processed," he said.
And a new Pentagon study on missile threats states Iran can now strike its neighbors, Europe and American troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Iran is developing and testing ballistic missiles capable of targeting much of Europe," it says. "Iran also presents a significant regional missile threat. It has developed and acquired ballistic missiles capable of striking deployed forces, allies, and partners in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. It is fielding increased numbers of mobile regional ballistic missiles and has claimed that it has incorporated anti-missile-defense tactics and capabilities into its ballistic missile forces. "
The next public development may come Feb. 11, the 31 anniversary of the 1979 revolution that ushered the ruling mullahs into power. Ahmedinejad has promised some unspecified spectacular event. Iran is known to want to launch communication and reconnaissance satellites and may be ready to do so.