HARDBALL

Obama Turns Screws on Iran

President Obama's declared deadline of one year to make progress toward ending an international dispute over Iran's nuclear program is coming up soon and the Iran he faces today is unrecognizable from the one that first heard his ultimatum. With massive protests across Iran still raging over its election last summer and some predicting a possible collapse of the regime, the White House hopes that a renewed campaign to pressure Iran with strong new sanctions will be particularly effective. One administration official told The New York Times that Israel, which has suggested it may attack Iran's facilities in the past, is encouraged by the plan and "now feel that what’s happening in Iran makes the country vulnerable to real sanctions.” According to the Times, the administration no longer believes an intelligence report from President Bush's second term indicating Iran abandoned efforts to design a nuclear warhead in 2003, but instead believes the Iranians require at least 18 months and possibly as long as three years to covertly produce a weapon.