As the world contemplates the progress that Iran is making toward nuclear capability, the latest revelations about the Israeli airstrike on a site in northern Syria last month are beginning to put together pieces of a frightening regional puzzle.
Front-page stories in The New York Times over the past week have reported that U.S. intelligence sources have confirmed what many only suspected since the incident: The target hit in Syria was a facility in the early stages of reactor construction.
Though that site may have been years from completion, there now appears to be little doubt -- even among those who weren't cheering the Israeli action -- that Syria was beginning its own nuclear program with the aid of North Korea. The reported tussle between Washington hawks and doves over North Korean policy, however, interests us far less than the applications of these lessons to another threat: Iran.
The spread of nuclear technology to Syria poses a mortal threat to every country in the Middle East, not just Israel. The same applies to the Iranian program, which, unfortunately, appears to be much closer to completion than Syria's operations. While some in Washington fret over Israel's unwillingness to stand by and watch while a rogue regime gains the most destructive weapons imaginable, the need for action on Iran increases with each passing day.
No one should entertain even the possibility of the use of force against Iran with anything but trepidation. All sensible observers know that the best possible solution to this terrible dilemma is for an international diplomatic coalition to enact tough sanctions that will force Tehran to step away from the brink and end its nuclear gambit.
Yet, it's not enough just to deplore the possibility of using force against Iran (even to oppose, as some have done, the proper designation of Iranian terrorists by the U.S. government as "provocative") and to extol the virtues of diplomacy. The countdown to Iranian nuclear weapons has begun. The strike on Syria should remind us that those who prefer words over intervention may be making a mistake -- one that's too late to correct.