Last week, as NATO airstrikes hit Libya, I though: Man, good thing Gadhafi gave up the nuclear program. Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, writes in the Wall Street Journal that the situation in Libya highlights the trouble with letting loony demagogues in unstable countries get their hands on nuclear material.
The efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons have been obscured by the dramatic images emanating from the region, but the upheaval makes that campaign all the more critical. While cynically shooting its own dissidents, the Iranian regime is calling for the overthrow of other Middle Eastern governments and exploiting the disorder to extend its influence.
In Lebanon, Iran has installed a puppet government and gained a strategic foothold on the eastern Mediterranean—an achievement of historic gravity. Triumphantly, Iranian warships for the first time passed through the Suez Canal and maneuvered off the Syrian coast. Iran has also stepped up arms supplies to Hezbollah and Hamas, as revealed by Israel’s recent interception of the freighter Victoria laden with Iranian missiles. And last week Iran welcomed—or perhaps instigated—the firing of some 100 rockets and mortar shells into Israel from Gaza.
All the while, Iran has remained the target of international sanctions designed to dissuade it from pursuing military nuclear capabilities. These strictures have affected Iran’s economy, but they have yet to significantly slow the country’s nuclear program or dampen its leaders’ appetite for atomic weapons. In spite of some technical difficulties, according to International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano, Iran is enriching uranium “steadily, constantly.”