How does one boil a live frog? This popular anecdote was used by Fox News’ national security analyst KT McFarland at a recent Capitol Hill Leadership Seminar to describe the series of events which has shaped public apathy concerning Iran in its adverse march to nuclear statehood.
The first step in boiling a frog is putting the frog in water which is still cool. This is what Iran did in the 1950’s when the country still maintained good relations with the U.S. under President Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace program. Iran received American assistance for its peaceful program up until the early 1970’s. Its pursuits until that point were understood by America to be in line with Eisenhower’s speech in which states would promote the peaceful benefits of nuclear energy under the regulation of a new UN body, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Those peaceful pursuits slowly and steadily began to change in Iran as the Islamic Awakening took shape and climaxed with the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and the American embassy hostage crisis.
The second step, as McFarland, who held national security posts in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations relayed, is to gradually turn up the heat until it is boiling so that the frog does not get concerned until it is too late. Since 1979, according to McFarland, Iran has gradually taken steps toward nuclear capability with eventual aims at enriching to weapons grade in a slow boil so that the world does not take notice and gets used to the small but dangerous increments. Signs of these often covert increments were laid bare in 2002-03 when Alireza Jafarzadeh alerted the West to the existence of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility and again in 2004 when he used some 400 nuclear experts to reveal that Iran is covertly running a nuclear weapons program alongside its overt nuclear energy program. Signs again surfaced in 2009 when a second enrichment facility was found at the holy city of Qom which went under the radar of the IAEA for years. Signs continue today with more gradual turns of the dial.
Even though four UN Security Council resolutions have imposed sanctions upon Iran, there still does not exist an overall sentiment of extreme worry and sense of urgency about these developments (except in Israel, the target of Iran’s extreme rhetoric). McFarland argues that there should be, however, due to the serious repercussions of a nuclear Iran, namely, the proliferation of nuclear states in the Middle East and the existential threat it poses to the state of Israel. Even with its UN defiance, Iran still claims peaceful nuclear pursuits but many leading Western states seriously doubt this.
The third step occurs when the frog is boiled. With this step comes the eventual realization that if Iran is not stopped outright, which could be aided greatly by a public acknowledgment and concerted backlash, then there will be a nuclear Iran and this simply must not happen, McFarland adamantly concludes.