Overshadowing O's legacy
- Last Updated: 5:21 AM, June 9, 2011
- Posted: 10:28 PM, June 8, 2011
Barack Obama surely wants to be remembered as the president who got Osama bin Laden and passed the nation's first universal-health-care plan. Instead, history may well mark him down as the leader who let Iran get the bomb -- and so doomed the Middle East to a new Dark Age.
Events in Egypt, Libya and Yemen have pushed Iran out of the headlines -- but RAND Corp. analyst Gregory Jones is on the case. Using the latest data from the International Atomic Energy Agency, he recently concluded that, if Iran's centrifuges continue to produce enriched uranium at current capacity, the regime will have 90 percent of the 20 kilograms it needs to produce a nuclear weapon within two months -- certainly by summer's end.
Even if Jones' timeline is off, and it's actually six or eight months, we may be confronting a nuclear-armed Iran -- what everyone has feared but failed to prevent -- before Christmas. This will radically reshape the Middle East in directions we don't want, and need to prepare to prevent.
It will surely accelerate the regional arms race, with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and even Jordan all scrambling to join the nuclear club. But the trouble won't stop there.
For example, we can expect the tide of the Arab Spring to flow decisively toward Tehran as the new power center in the region, much as Eastern Europe did toward Adolf Hitler in the late 1930s.
When the dictator emerged triumphant over the Western democracies at the Munich conference, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and even Poland jumped to join the Nazi bandwagon. Today, the new leadership in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and elsewhere are likely to see aligning with Tehran as their key to power (Turkey has already gone down this road); the Palestinian Authority and other non-state powers will also trim their sails to the new wind.
Meanwhile, Iranian allies such as Syria and Lebanon's Hezbollah will gain confidence, and will look for ways to expand their own influence and power -- and their threats to Israel.
And it will lessen the chances for democratic change in Iran. The regime will finally realize the goal it has been singlemindedly pursuing for decades, despite every US pressure and Western sanction -- bolstering the legitimacy of the the brutal, and corrupt police state Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and his cronies have created.
Further, the whole reason for sanctions will have collapsed, so countries like Germany and China that have chafed under the sanctions will likely shift back to business as usual with Tehran -- relieving the now-considerable economic pressure on the regime.
Finally, Israel is likely to face complete isolation as its neighbors rush to appease Iran -- or to prove their own Islamist bona fides. The pressure on Jerusalem to concede every demand from its neighbors will mount, with Iranian nukes as the final trump card. Peace on our terms or annihilation will be the implied threat -- as the White House sits impotently by.
Is there any way out of this nightmare scenario -- a way to avoid a new Dark Age in the Middle East? Certainly the time for action is running out.
Jones told London's Daily Mail he believes US airstrikes alone will no longer be sufficient to stop the nuclear program -- and this administration has already sent signals that it won't try. Israel may, but for much hope of success it needs full US cooperation, including satellite intelligence and help evading Iran's sophisticated air-defense system. The chances of that happening under Obama are virtually nil.
In the end, the last best hope for stopping Iran's dominance of the region may be a Republican victory in 2012 -- and a new administration with guts enough to stand by Israel and to work out a new strategy for dealing with Iran, nukes or no nukes.
But time may run out first. Then Obama's place in history will be set, as the man who let Iran go nuclear -- and led the rest of us to a monstrous new era in the Middle East.
Arthur Herman's "Gandhi and Churchill" was a Pulitzer Prize fi nalist in 2009.Follow @NYPostOpinion