Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad congratulated his nation earlier this week for its "great victory" following the release of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) report last Friday, and for good reason.

The "great [Iranian] nation's" perseverance enabled the government to do everything to restore Iran's rights in the nuclear energy field, in both national and international arenas, he said.

Ahmadinejad had someone he could count on when, with a broad smile, he called on the United States to apologize to Iran and even compensate it for America's "errors."

IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei played into the Iranians' hands again. Not only did he help their president to celebrate in Tehran, he also gave them another extension on their way to completing their nuclear weapons development.

Once again, as expected, ElBaradei missed the opportunity to unite the international community around the efforts to prevent Iran's nuclearization.

ElBaradei continued to use evasive language in the periodical report on Iran he released at the end of last week. He adamantly refuses to state the obvious. Referring to Iran's simulations and experiments with high-impact explosives and planned ballistic missile warheads, ElBaradei writes that there is no indication linking these activities to "nuclear materials." The IAEA cannot therefore reach a clear decision about the Iranian nuclear program's character, he writes.

In other words, it is clear even to ElBaradei that Iran is concealing, misleading and ignoring the Security Council's resolutions, yet he refrains from stating explicitly that it is developing nuclear arms.

It is clear that the Iranians have no reason or need to develop advanced explosive missile heads unless they intend to equip them with nuclear weapons. It is also obvious that there is no connection between developing energy for peaceful purposes and the Green Salt Project. This allegedly secretive project, which Iran has been working on for years and which the CIA told the IAEA about, consists of an explicit design for nuclear bombs.

Unfortunately ElBaradei's convoluted, problematic report received moral support from the American intelligence community in December, which said among other things that Iran had already abandoned the nuclear weapons component in its development programs in 2003.

It makes no difference that the U.S. director of National Intelligence, J. Michael McConnell, recently admitted he had been wrong in Congress, making it clear that he regretted the way the report had been presented.

McConnell said the intelligence community had erred, and that Iran was advancing on the most complicated part in nuclear production, the bomb, producing fuel based on enriched uranium. Well said, but too late.

Thus, the rear-guard action that the Bush administration is trying to lead now focuses on the attempt to draft a Security Council resolution for another round of sanctions against Iran - a move doomed to fail as the attempts to persuade Iran to back down from its nuclear program failed.

"Time is against us," U.S. Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad said this week.

Two previous rounds of sanctions, in December 2006 and last March, failed to bring a change in Iran's nuclear policy. Britain and France have now presented the Security Council with a resolution proposal for additional sanctions, including restricting cargo to and from Iran, imposing a travel ban on Iranians visiting selected countries, confiscating assets of people involved in Iran's nuclear program, and tightening supervision over Iranian financial institutions.

Even if Russia and China do not object, as expected, and the Security Council adopts the proposal, it is doubtful whether this would unduly upset the Iranians.

The conclusion is that if during the coming year - by the end of George Bush's term - the American president does not order a military operation against Iran's nuclear sites, it is doubtful whether it would be possible to prevent Iran from turning into a nuclear state. Jerusalem must start getting used to this and prepare for a "new Middle East."