August 14, 2005 | New York Daily News

Danger in Ignoring Iran’s Dare

By: Richard Z. Chesnoff.

When it comes to chutzpah,Iran's turning into an Olympian champion. But consider this – in the midst of on-again, off-again negotiations with both the UN and the European Union about whether Iran can resume its suspicious and suspended nuclear development program, the mad mullahs of Iran decided to thumb their noses at the world. Brazenly removing UN seals on the uranium processing equipment at its Isfahan reactor, Iran unilaterally made the important plant fully operational. As an added touch of bravado, the Iranians waited until UN surveillance cameras were in place and running so that everyone could witness their cheek.

What's the big deal, you may ask? Why not let Iran develop nuclear energy like other nations?

Simple – though Iran denies it, the fact is that the most radical and potentially most dangerous nation in the Middle East has long been in the process of developing a nuclear weapon.

Indeed, current denials notwithstanding, the fanatic Islamists who've ruled Iran since the fall of the shah were never too shy in the past to boast that Iran could become a nuclear power if it so chose. Now Tehran and its apologists tell us there's nothing suspicious about Iran's nuclear program. It's simple, Iran needs nuclear power to feed the needs of its developing economy.

Now that sounds pretty strange to me and to a lot of other people. After all, Iran is still the world's fourth-largest producer of oil. Right now Tehran pumps out more than 4 million barrels of oil a day. Experts say its oil reserves should last at least 80 more years.

And that's not all. According to the international energy reports, Iran also boasts spectacular reserves of natural gas.

Besides, there's another reason not to trust Iran's pollyannaish claims of innocence. While the Iranians technically had the right under international rules to process uranium for peaceful purposes, they steadfastly kept several of their most important nuclear facilities secret for more than 18 years. The secret was disclosed by Iranian dissidents.

Expert observers of Iran's politics say that not coincidentally this new offensive by Iran comes the very week its newly elected president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, took office. A radical hard-liner who was elected with a large popular majority, Ahmadinejad won his fanatic's wings in the early days of Iran's Islamist revolution; as a senior officer in the Revolutionary Guard, and, according to Mideast intelligence sources, as a member of the secret unit that assassinated Iranian opposition leaders around the world.

Dissing the UN and the International Atomic Energy Agency was his way of showing who's in charge these days.
Iran's defenders are warning against responding toughly. Rami Khouri, the editor at large of the Beirut-based Daily Star, points out that “in the past three weeks, the leaders of Iraq, Syria and Hezbollah have made official visits to Tehran.” This, says Khouri, indicates that Iran rather than Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Israel or the Palestinians is becoming the Mideast's center of gravity for trends and emotions regarding the U.S. and the West.

As Khouri sees it; the U.S. and others should tread softly with Iran and not display “arrogance.” I say the opposite. Recognize terror-supporting Iran for what it is. Make it stop its nuclear testing now, pending agreements, and impose UN sanctions if need be.

We can't afford to reward Tehran's chutzpah.