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Ignoring nuclear threat from Iran is ... flirting with disaster

With most of the American press firmly against the war in Iraq and many media types portraying President Bush as a bumbling fool, the danger we all face from Iran is being shrouded in a fog of partisan bitterness.

In a very underreported story, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced that Iran is resuming its uranium enrichment program, which is necessary to develop nuclear weaponry. The Iranians say they don't want a nuke, they want more electricity. And if you believe that, I have a Victoria's Secret franchise in Tehran I'd like to sell you. The mullahs control plenty of electricity.

Iran is clearly thumbing its nose at the world and is doing so because it believes the U.S. has been weakened by the war in Iraq, and Europe is too cowardly to do anything other than complain. The fanatical Iranian mullahs are, as one diplomat put it, rolling the dice and daring the world to stop them.

Of course, if Iran does develop nukes, the odds of al-Qaida gaining access to them are high. What better way to attack the ''American devil'' than by using a nuclear device? And the mullahs could always claim they had nothing to do with the attack. Remember, it was a rogue Pakistani scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, who sold nuclear stuff to Libya and, perhaps, to North Korea. The Pakistani government claimed to know nothing about it.

Now it is hard to imagine that the left-leaning, anti-Bush press, both here and abroad, would encourage Bush to take aggressive action against Iran. In fact, my guess is any saber rattling by Washington would be greeted with partisan skepticism and scorn in the media.

The question then becomes: Has the White House been intimidated by the chaos in Iraq? With faulty CIA intelligence both before and after 9/11, has Bush lost the credibility, and perhaps the confidence, to take bold action against Iran?

This is a crucial question as the mullahs challenge the world. Even though Jacques Chirac and Vladimir Putin say they are fed up with Iran, talk is cheap, and these guys are a discount warehouse. In the end, it will probably be left to the U.S. and Great Britain to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions, although Israel is a wild card.

This is the real deal, and every American should understand the danger. The chief Iranian mullah, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wants Israel wiped off the face of the earth and denies the Holocaust ever took place. Obviously, Israel is not going to allow nukes in Iran.

So while some in the anti-Bush media continue to pile on the president at every opportunity, those of us who understand the war on terror are growing increasingly uneasy. The mullahs and terrorists believe the Bush administration is seriously weakened and are watching with great glee. No way in the months directly after 9/11 would these guys have pulled this stuff. But now they are emboldened by the struggle in Iraq and the apathy at the United Nations.

The mullahs are arrogant, dangerous and heading for trouble. I hear Iran's new motto might be a steal from Vegas: ''What happens here, stays here. And blank you if you don't like it.''

With nukes now in play, that's a recipe for disaster.

Veteran TV news anchor and author Bill O'Reilly is a host on Fox News. His column appears on Friday.