When I visited Israel last year, various sources there were convinced – adamant, even – that Iran was within a year or two of creating an atomic bomb. That may or may not have been the case, but it’s still ominous that that hypothetical timeline is nearly up. We can all too easily forget that, in the background to all the column inches and comment pieces expended on Iran, there are genuine and pressing concerns that the country is on the cusp of becoming a nuclear power.
Which is why the two latest news stories from the country are particularly worrying: the capture of a racing yacht by the Iranian navy and Tehran’s plan to massively expand its uranium enrichment programme. They encapsulate the country’s clenched fist response to the West’s hand of friendship – and there’s something particularly provocative and shameless about the actions coming, as they do, after the discovery of a secret nuclear plant only a couple of months ago. All in all, it’s bound to infuriate those who think Iran needs dealing with more firmly, and perhaps even encourage a few more to join that particular cause. Iran seems to be wishing a military solution upon itself.
Whatever happens, it’s another reminder that the next government will inherit international challenges which are at least as great as the fiscal problems we face domestically. Of course, government is never easy. But there aren’t too many governments in our political history which have faced such a difficult task.