Hard lines once again appear to have been drawn in desert sand.
Iran last week sent U.N. nuclear agency inspectors packing, empty handed, in their efforts to get the Iranians to come clean about their nuclear program.
But Iran is clearly digging in its heels despite international pressure including sanctions on Iranian oil and banks and U.S. and Israeli warnings of possible last-resort military action to curb nuclear activities widely believe to have the goal of producing a weapon.
Though sanctions appear to be the best remaining bargaining chip, they may not be enough to deter Iran’s leaders. Sanctions tend to hit common people hardest, and the leadership in Iran appears to be OK with unemployment at 16 percent and inflation at 24 percent.
Israel has in the past used military strikes to take out potential nuclear threats in the Middle East. But some experts say this time Israeli strikes might only delay Iran’s nuclear program and not destroy it, as some suspected facilities are deep underground.
But years of negotiating, cajoling, sanctions and efforts to compromise seem to have failed. The clock is ticking and the potential threat is rising. Iran’s leaders have made it clear they oppose Israel’s very existence.
The United States soon may be forced to decide if it will bring its military capabilities into play to preserve a haven of democracy in the region and to keep a potentially nuclear-militarized enemy at bay.
If the United States does not want Israel to take unilateral action to protect itself, then it needs to lead strongly from the front and increase efforts to build an international coalition applying pressure on Iran.
Iran cannot be allowed to join the nuclear club.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.