Herman Cain: We should stop Iran's nuke program by pursuing energy independence

Via Christian Heinze of GOP12, this would have been a fine idea 25 years ago but we’re way, way too close to Iran’s moment of truth for any “energy independence” project to make a decisive difference now. The Journal surveys the scene:

On Thursday, the International Atomic Energy Agency “de-restricted” its most recent report on Iran’s nuclear progress. Despite hopes that the 2009 Stuxnet computer virus had slowed or even crippled Tehran’s efforts, the IAEA reports that in the last six months Tehran had enriched some 970 kilos of uranium to reactor-grade levels, or LEU, bringing its total stockpile of LEU to 4,105 kilos.

Iran has also enriched 56.7 kilos of uranium to a 20% level, ostensibly to produce medical isotopes but bringing it measurably closer to the 90% level needed for a bomb. Iran also announced this week that it will begin installing a more efficient type of centrifuge to enrich uranium at its once-secret facility near the city of Qom…

The day of that test may not be far off. In an analysis this month for the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, Rand scholar Gregory S. Jones writes that even in the absence of a clandestine nuclear program, “Iran can now produce a weapon’s worth (20 kilograms) of HEU [weapons-grade uranium] any time it wishes. With Iran’s current number of operating centrifuges, the batch recycling process would take about two months.”

According to this analysis, they’ve basically already reached breakout capacity. According to Israeli analysts, they’re still a few years away, but it’ll take more than a few years to reach a global state of energy independence sufficient to bankrupt oil giants like Iran. (North Korea, a much poorer country, has survived grinding poverty and economic sanctions to become nuclear-capable.) I don’t want to beat up on Cain over this too much since it is, after all, an intractable problem that’s bedeviled not just Obama but Bush; the options are either to grovel in the name of making a deal or to launch an almost certainly futile bombing campaign of their nuke infrastructure. Not an appetizing menu for a presidential candidate to choose from. But this is, in fact, his third noticeable gaffe on foreign policy: The first was his unique refusal to opine about Afghanistan because he lacks inside information and the second was his already infamous blanking about the Palestinian right of return. Now this, which has Jonathan Tobin at Commentary writing him off as a fundamentally unserious candidate. I think he could be serious, and a real threat in Iowa and in the south, if he was more polished on foreign policy, but how many fumbles should base voters endure before deciding it’s too much of a risk?