ONE ON ONE
PAUL GIGOT: In this segment each week we'll
try to get behind the headlines by calling on the expertise of one of
our editorial page writers or contributors. This week it's Rob Pollock,
who writes regularly on national security issues around the world.
security issue other than Iraq and terrorism that started to get some
much-needed attention this week, was the increasing evidence that North
Korea and Iran are getting closer to having nuclear weapons. It was
reported that the president has been given evidence of new activity at a
potential nuclear site in North Korea. And ABC World News Tonight
obtained exclusive satellite photos of an Iranian military site where,
experts said, nuclear weapons could be made and tested.
International Atomic Energy Agency has asked for permission to visit the
site, but Iran has not responded. Rob, how serious is this threat of
nuclear weapons in the hands of rogue regimes, and particularly Iran?
ROB POLLOCK: Well, it's a very serious threat. The consensus in the
intelligence community right now is that North Korea already has at
least a couple of devices. And as far as Iran goes, I think the
Undersecretary of State for Arms Control, John Bolton, has put it best.
He said, there's no explanation for a 20-year covert nuclear program
except weapons. Much of what Iran has been doing, they would be allowed
to do out in the open. But they've been lying to the international
PAUL GIGOT: Haven't the rulers in Tehran basically said,
look, we are of a stature that should allow us to become a nuclear
state, whether you like it or not. Haven't they been that blunt about
ROB POLLOCK: No, that's exactly what they're saying. And that's kind of
the crazy thing. They're saying, we want to be recognized as a perfectly
normal nuclear nation with the right to control our own fuel cycle.
Well, they're not a normal nation. Every year they top the State
Department's list of terror-sponsoring countries.
PAUL GIGOT: All
right, so what is the world community doing about this? They seem to be
-- and Vice President Cheney said when he came to visit us not long ago
-- on a diplomatic track. Is that working?
ROB POLLOCK: The
diplomatic track is working insofar as the U.N. does have inspectors in
Iran, and they are learning things about the program. But one of the
things they keep learning is that the Iranians keep lying to us. And
even given a chance to come clean. And we learned, first of all, that
they had an enrichment program we didn't know about. Then we learned
they had another enrichment program we didn't know about, a
sophisticated program involving so-called P2 Centrifuges, which were
sold by the Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Kahn. So that's a very serious
PAUL GIGOT: Sounds like if the diplomatic track fails, the
potential use of force is there for whoever is president in the next
four years. Is that right?
ROB POLLOCK: I think certainly the threat of force has to be there. I
think it's pretty obvious the mullahs are betting the survival of
their regime on a crash program to build a nuclear bomb. They know that
the North Koreans are pretty much untouchable at this point, or at least
that's what they perceive. And they want the same for themselves,
knowing that they're unpopular with their own people and they could be
easily toppled by a modicum of outside pressure.
Quickly, Rob -- has John Kerry been able to get any traction with this
politically against the president?
ROB POLLOCK: It's not clear that
he has. And that's unfortunate for Mr. Kerry, because as we've pointed
out in editorials, he had an opportunity here to go after President Bush
from the right. But instead, he's decided to suggest that the problem
here is that the United States hasn't been accommodating enough, and he
wants us to do a deal with the mullahs, whereby we would supply them
with nuclear fuel and then take it back so they can't make it into
bombs. Well, should we trust them after what we've been through for the
past few years? That's not clear.
PAUL GIGOT: It's sort of an arms
ROB POLLOCK: That's right.
Thanks, Rob, for that insight. Next subject.