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June 24, 2004

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if there was a Middle Eastern country that refused to listen to U.N. demands to eliminate weapons of mass destruction? Then they make matters worse by taking easterners hostage. Wait, thatís already happened right Ė heís talking about Iraq. Youíre right, it already has happened in Iraq. But this week it was also happening in neighboring Iran.

The United Nations atomic weaponís investigators has issued a strong reprimand to Iran for its secretive uranium enrichment program. The International Atomic Energy Agency put the troublemakerís name on the chalkboard two years ago when Iranís atomic program was uncovered. The bad boys have received several check marks after repeated attempts to investigate the issue have gone unfulfilled. The discipline apparently wasnít working so the teacher reported Iran to the principal, the U.N. Security Council in the form of a 35-page report denouncing the countryís failures to report.

Now Iranís representative to the organization has made veiled threats that the country may restart the uranium enrichment program. The results could be used for nuclear power plants but also are suitable for the manufacturing of nuclear weapons.

If the threat of nuclear weapons isnít bad enough, Iran compounded its image problems this week when three British ships and eight English sailors were captured in the Persian Gulf. The three small boats reportedly accidentally entered Iranian water while on training missions for the Iraqi Navy. The boats are used to train local sailors how to patrol for smugglers.

Do these guys not get CNN? Didnít they see what happened to Iraq when it went down this road? Granted things arenít going exactly as planned in the Middle East but the powers that be certainly wonít allow this type of behavior to continue.

Then again, maybe they are watching the news. Maybe they have seen how many United States citizens have jumped ship, midstream. Public opinion obviously has shifted concerning Iraq, so why wouldnít Iran think it could get away with this? The majority was in favor of the action in Iraq. But the repeated casualties and setbacks have rearranged many citizensí priorities.

It reminds me of ďwarm-weatherĒ fans in sports. You know, the oneís whose favorite team is simply the one that is currently winning. When that squad falls out of first place they change their allegiances to the newest winner.

Some of these foreign powers remind me of little kids. They know that the boss has been tested and is staggering a bit so they are going to push a little further to see if they can get away with it.

My hat is off to Saudi Arabia, which finally stood up to Al Qaeda, tracking down the murderers of American engineer Paul Johnson. The leader of that countryís terrorist cell was reportedly killed along with some of his henchmen in a shoot-out with police forces from that country. Granted, it may seem insignificant in the face of all the allied casualties, but itís a Muslim state taking action against the Islamic terrorists. Fear of the terrorists is being replaced by the desire for justice.

Unfortunately the Iranian issues have taken this achievement out of the limelight.

So what do we do as a nation if Iraq does restart the weapons-grade uranium program? Do we let them create fuel for the first terrorist nuclear weapon?

If we let them take British sailors prisoner, what happens when a U.S. boat strays off course?

But can we afford to flex our muscles again with the chance that it could escalate into another desert conflict?

Thatís a lot of questions that Iím not sure I have the answers for. Wouldnít it be nice if this time bomb defused itself.


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