Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, sometimes sounds like a clown sired by a mad man, but that's not all. He's an ingrate, too.
The investigators of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are trying to persuade the West to sleep off concerns, if any, about Iran's nuclear-weapons program, but Mr. Ahmadinejad just won't shut up.
No sooner had Mohamed ElBaradei, the chief investigator, insisted that (1) Iran is actually not all that far along in making the centrifuges needed to develop a nuclear bomb, and that (2) the Iranians are really being a lot more cooperative than they used to be, than the Iranian president said to points (1) and (2): "Oh, yes we are," and "Oh, no we're not."
"The West thought the Iranian nation would give in after just a resolution," the Iranian president said, "but now we have taken another step in the nuclear progress and launched more than 3,000 centrifuge machines, installing a new cascade every week."
These centrifuges are encased in aluminum cylinders the size of a drain pipe - in fact, scavengers at one of Saddam Hussein's weapons plants (the same nuclear-weapons plants that tellers of fairy tales insist he never had) sold some of them for drain pipes. Gaseous uranium material is fed into a cylindrical rotor in the aluminum casing and centrifugal force separates the uranium isotopes. This separation is necessary to the building of nuclear weapons, hence Mr. Ahmadinejad's gleeful boasting that he is well on his way to developing the weapons to inflict catastrophe on the world. The argument between Mr. Ahmadinejad and the United Nations weapons inspectors over who knows what Mr. Ahmadinejad is up to only underscores concern in certain Western capitals, even including "the new France."
The Iranian president seems determined to pick a fight with George W. Bush. He told a group of academics that he has both scientific and theological "proof" that George W. is incapable of eliminating Iran's nuclear facilities. "I am an engineer, and I am examining the issue," he told the academics. "They do not dare wage war against us, and I base this on a double proof. I am an engineer, and I am a master in calculation and tabulation. I draw up tables. For hours, I write out different hypotheses. I reject, I reason. I reason with planning, and I make a conclusion. They cannot make problems for Iran."
If Ahmadinejadian calculus and tabulation doesn't scare the pants off George W., there's more. "Allah says that those who walk in the path of righteousness will be victorious. What reason can you have for believing Allah will not keep this promise?"
Nevertheless, the buzz grows louder in London and Washington that Mr. Ahmadinejad's calculations and tables, so laboriously reduced to pencil and paper, are soon to be upset by another wave of shock and awe. The London Sunday Times reports that plans have been drawn for a bombing raid on 1,200 targets to "annihilate" the Iranian military over a space of three days. The Times quoted Alexis Debat, director of studies of terrorism and national security at the Nixon Center in Washington, saying these will not be "pinprick" strikes. Whether pinpricks or all-out strikes, "the reaction from the Iranians will be the same."
The world will howl, as it did when the Israelis destroyed Saddam Hussein's nuclear reactor at Osirik nearly a quarter of a century ago, but once off camera, the West will offer a prayer of thanks to G-d, if not to Allah, as it did after the Osirik raid.
The Pentagon has contingency plans for everything; somewhere deep in the bowels of the building there are no doubt contingency plans for invading Scotland or flooding the Sahara. But the buzz about doing something about a nuclear Iran is loud enough now to drown the squeak of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's pencil, as he makes his calculations and draws his tables. Enough, eventually, to silence the U.N. inspectors.