Reports that Iran has suffered a major setback in its quest for nuclear weapons is welcome news, but it must not lead to complacency.
Meir Dagan, the outgoing head of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, said last week that Iran likely would not have a bomb before 2015. Prior to that, Israeli assessments had predicted a weapon as early as this year.
A combination of sanctions and a computer virus executed with pinpoint precision appear to have worked in concert to derail Iran's desire to become an imminent nuclear power.
A lengthy report in The New York Times on Sunday detailed the evolution of the Stuxnet computer virus, which reportedly caused Iran's nuclear centrifuges, needed to enrich uranium, to spin out of control.
But this seemingly brilliant effort to sabotage Iran's nuclear program through high-tech prowess does not mean the threat is gone.
Far from it. Indeed, Iran continues to pose the gravest threat to Israel and the entire Middle East. In addition to its maniacal vows to destroy the Jewish state, it is a major source of support for its terrorist proxies, which closely border Israel — Hamas and Hezbollah. As political instability surfaces once again in Lebanon, with Hezbollah at its center, and the tumult in Tunisia sends shock waves across the region, it's more critical than ever that Iran's quest for regional hegemony — aided by nuclear capability — be thwarted.
Details about the Stuxnet provide a sense of relief for those who have justly worried that not enough was being done to derail Iran's ambitions.
It is also a relief to know that despite differences between Israel and the United States on peace process issues, the two allies cooperated to put a crucial brake on Iran's program. The Times article suggested that it was an American-led program, with Israel playing a critical role in testing the technology, that reportedly has eliminated a fifth of Iran's centrifuges.
Sanctions, too, have apparently had some impact, and it is imperative that economic pressure continues to be applied on Iran.
As U.S. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) said, the Stuxnet revelations reinforce the need for a tough stance. "It's a reason to push down on the pedal," Berman, who crafted the most recent Iran sanctions law in the Congress, was quoted saying by JTA. "Iran is still enriching uranium. It is absolutely critical we bear down with a comprehensive strategy of which sanctions is a critical part."
Now the international community must keep up the pressure and we — as Jews and Americans — must remain vigilant as well.
When leaders of the United States and other major powers meet with Iran in Istanbul this weekend in the latest round of talks, it is critical that the message continues to be loud and clear: The world will not tolerate a nuclear Iran and it will do everything in its power to ensure that such a scenario will never come to pass.