Calibrating the Centrifuge

Assuming Iran will have nuclear capability it is best to draw Iran back into the heart of the int'l community alongside states like India and Pakistan, and to conduct a dialogue with Iran on their nuclear program and involve them in int'l peace efforts.

Iran has already achieved its goal. It no longer needs thousands of centrifuges or to obtain nuclear weapons to be considered a nuclear power. Iran is already there. It wields deterrence because it has the technology and potential to manufacture nuclear weapons. It is already there because everyone believes it will indeed produce nuclear weapons. And Iran also has one more small and threatening "advantage": a president who looks like a poet and sounds like a lunatic, whose words swell like a radioactive cloud. His threatening rhetoric even makes one forget that he is not the one responsible for the nuclear development. Rather, it was his predecessors, Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammed Khatami, presidents who were considered moderate in the West.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's innovation is his candor. Already a year ago, he made it clear to anyone willing to listen that he plans to transform Iran into a superpower like any other superpower. If the criterion for being a superpower is nuclear capability, then Iran will also have this. From his perspective, this is a rectification of Iran's history. No longer a rag of colonialism, and not even a nice guy who must find favor in the eyes of the West, like his predecessor, Khatami. Ahmadinejad, the president who corresponded directly with George W. Bush, believes the West should respect Iran because of what it is: big, strong and threatening.

And this is starting to work. Whoever listens carefully to Bush and his representatives, instead of Olmert's growls, realizes that Iran will play an important role in the U.S. retreat from Iraq. This is because no Arab state can match Iran's power or its political influence on the Shi'ite leadership in Iraq. No Arab coalition can even compel a peripheral state such as Syria to assist the U.S. like Iran can. And no Western state currently has a magic potion capable of delaying the development of the Iranian weapon.

It is difficult to accept this situation, which evolved under the noses of everyone, especially because Iran is still considered a type of inferior, wild creature - whether its leaders wear a robe, or, as during the period of the shah, silk suits. Now, while the process of reeducating the West on Iran is in full swing, it is even more tormenting.

The loud declarations - one day speaking about a possible attack against Iran, and the next day falling in line with the increasingly conciliatory American policy - are evidence of this confusion. Because it is not only a matter of the tactical difficulty of locating all of Iran's nuclear labs and key scientists. Rather, the main issue is a lack of international consensus regarding the proper course of action. And it seems that Israel's shrillness actually reinforces the international community's feeling that it would be best to act with restraint. After all, in the eyes of many in this community, Israel is also tainted with a considerable amount of craziness and they see the Iranian issue as playing to Israel's political needs no less than affecting its existential concern.

In the absence of an internal consensus on a military solution, it would be best to try to calibrate the centrifuge of Tehran, to assume that Iran will have nuclear capability and to do what is required in light of this: to draw Iran back into the heart of the international community alongside states like India and Pakistan, and to conduct a dialogue with Iran not only on the quantity of centrifuges and the number of video cameras for monitoring the process, but also to involve Iran in international peace efforts. If Iran is worthy of being an interlocutor on the Iraq issue, perhaps it would also be good to talk with Iran about Syria, and perhaps a few other conflicts as well. Instead of allowing Iran to export rugs or pistachios to the U.S., perhaps it would be better to authorize American companies to develop oil fields in Iran. And, in particular, it would be best to discuss terms for deleting the concept of "axis of evil," which has so far generated policy that has caused great damage to the security of the world. Because it seems that Iran is about to receive a new job: monitoring the security of the Persian Gulf.