Tehran's decision to raise its uranium enrichment level to 20 percent – taking it weeks away from weapons-grade production – in the teeth of international objections, has raised no cries of outrage in Washington or Jerusalem. Asked Monday, Feb. 7, whether president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's announcement brought military action any closer, US defense secretary Robert Gates said noncommittally: "If the international community will stand together and bring pressure to bear on the Iranian government, I believe there is still time for pressure and sanctions to work."
Gates pretended not to notice that the "international community" is deeply divided on this issue, with China and some European governments rooting against sanctions and Russia likely to join them. Tehran can therefore safely move forward without fear of the international community standing together on pressure.
The reaction from Jerusalem was even more flaccid: The Prime minister's office stated that that when Binyamin Netanyahu travelled to Moscow next week, he would raise the Iranian nuclear issue and sanctions and ask the Russians to continue to withhold the S-300 defense missile from Iran.
No comment was heard on Tehran's leap onto a higher level of uranium enrichment, or the fact that the fuel rods Moscow delivered two years for Iran's atomic reactor at Bushehr enabled the Islamic Republic to go into home-production of high-grade uranium fuel.
The West had plenty of time to do – or at least, say something, because Ahmadinejad gave advance warning of the enrichment hike three weeks ago. On Jan. 14, he promised "good news" about 20 percent enriched uranium to mark the celebrations of Iran's revolution Feb. 1-11.
Not only was nothing done to deter the Iranian president, but he was allowed to infer that Washington, Jerusalem and the Western powers no longer stand in the way of Iran's progress step by accelerated step towards a nuclear weapon, or challenge its president's posture as nuclear hero of the Muslim world, brave enough to defy America.