As 2009 draws to a close and the second decade of the 21st century looms before us, there is no greater danger facing the world than the prospect of a nuclear Iran.
As the events of recent weeks have made abundantly clear, sanctions and diplomacy have utterly failed to stop Teheran's march down the road to an atomic arsenal. The ayatollahs have gleefully ignored repeated warnings from the West, and stubbornly insisted on proceeding apace toward nuclear proficiency.
We can no longer continue to ignore this reality. Our future and everything we hold dear is at stake. The danger is simply too great, and the threat is too real. As frightening as it sounds, Israel must give serious consideration to bombing Iran before it is too late.
MAKE NO mistake. If a halt is not put to Iran's efforts, we will soon wake up to discover the would-be Hitler of Persia with his finger on the button, threatening Israel and the world with nuclear blackmail and destruction.
What the Nazi leader could only dream of accomplishing more than half a century ago, will soon be within reach of his Iranian disciple. Indeed, the clock is already winding down and we are nearing the end of the game, as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's scientists prepare to cross the threshold and storm past the nuclear goal line.
Speaking before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave a chilling account of just how close Iran is to meeting its nefarious goal. By early 2010, he said, the mullahs will have the technology to build a nuclear bomb, and they will be able to produce one within a year. That means that sometime in the next few weeks or months, Teheran will reach the technological point of no return, beyond which lies a future clouded in darkness and uncertainty.
And so, less than 1,000 miles east of Jerusalem, a new Auschwitz is steadily being prepared as the world dithers over what to do.
MONTHS AGO, Washington and its allies set a year-end deadline for Iran to accept a deal drawn up by the UN under which their uranium would be enriched abroad. But even this proved unacceptable to the hard-liners in Teheran, who are not exactly quaking in their boots at the prospect of additional economic penalties.
In a speech delivered last Tuesday, Ahmadinejad made clear that he remains unmoved by warnings from the West. The international community, he said, can give Iran "as many deadlines as they want, we don't care."
And why should they? The UN Security Council has already imposed three sets of sanctions on Iran with little to show for it. Does anyone really think that yet another round of injunctions and hand-wringing will do the trick?
In fact, just a few days ago, reports surfaced in the press that Iran was once again actively seeking to violate existing UN resolutions by trying to import 1,350 tons of purified uranium ore from Kazakhstan to further bolster its enrichment program.
This is just one more sign that the West's efforts to freeze Teheran's nuclear program have come up short.
MOREOVER, THE Iranians continue to improve their strategic missile capability, heightening the peril should they succeed in constructing a nuclear warhead. In mid-December Iran test-fired its latest missile, the Sajjil-2, a sophisticated solid-fuel rocket that is more advanced and more accurate than its predecessors. With a range of 1,200 miles, or nearly 2,000 kilometers, it can hit anywhere in Israel and even reach parts of Europe.
Iran's defense minister boasted on state television that the Sajjil-2 can be fired more quickly and reaches its target faster, which makes it harder to intercept or shoot down. Since it is a solid-fuel rocket, it can be prepped in advance and hidden in silos, thereby decreasing its vulnerability to a preemptive attack.
And lest there be any doubt about the ayatollahs' real intentions, the Times of London reported two weeks ago that Western intelligence agencies have obtained an internal Iranian document detailing plans for neutron initiators. These are the triggers which set off nuclear explosions, and they have no other use.
TAKEN TOGETHER, all these pieces combine to form a frighteningly unambiguous picture: Iran is terrifyingly close to becoming a nuclear power. With each passing day, this nightmare scenario moves one step closer to fruition.
And so we must look ourselves directly in the mirror and ask a simple yet very pointed question: Are we really prepared to allow the tyrant of Teheran to threaten our very existence?
An atomic Iran would transform the strategic dynamic of the Middle East, strengthen radical and fundamentalist forces and spark a region-wide nuclear arms race. It would raise the specter of terrorist groups allied to Teheran, such as Hamas and Hizbullah, getting their hands on the most devastating of weapons.
And we all know how Iran's leaders have repeatedly and brazenly vowed to exterminate the Jewish state and wipe us off the map.
The alarm bells are ringing and the danger is near. Iran can and must be stopped, and military force may be the only way to do so. Six decades ago, the world watched in silence as the Germans tossed us into Hitler's ovens and turned six million Jews into ashes. We cannot assume they will act any differently if Iran seeks to do the same.
So we dare not tarry. There is little room left for delay. If the world fails to act, the option of last resort may be our only choice.