Amid all the major stories of the past couple weeks, which certainly included the many accounts of Rep. Anthony Weiner’s expansive social life and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s bus trip, a smaller story blipped up for a news cycle and then vanished.

You could be hearing about it again, however.

It cited a report by Gregory S. Jones, an adjunct senior policy analyst at the RAND Corp., a major think tank that analyzes scientific and public policy trends and makes recommendations on them for both governmental and private clients.

What got Jones’ name in the news was a study he conducted that said Iran’s current production of enriched uranium was sufficient to let it acquire 90 percent of the material it would need to build a nuclear bomb within the next two or three months — “certainly by the end of the summer.”

RAND quickly disassociated itself from Jones’ report, pointing out that he had written it not for them but for a tiny nuclear-weapons study group called the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center.

A number of other sources and agencies, including the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency, said they doubted Jones was right.

But the IAEA did note “seven areas of concern” about Iran’s nuclear program, which the Iranians say is strictly for peaceful power generation.

One of the “areas” is that the Iranians are acquiring instrumentation and electrical devices “for explosive testing over long distances and possibly underground.”

And another is that they are indeed enriching uranium to a higher level than is needed for electrical generation and closer to that used in weaponry — and, as The Associated Press reported earlier this week, plan to “triple the output of the higher-grade material.”

That, despite the fact that the U.N. Security Council has four times imposed increasingly strict levels of economic sanctions on the country.

Other sources considered it curious that an article posted April 24 to “Gerdab,” a website run by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards — the armed security force of the Islamist regime, responsible for much of the use of force to put down anti-regime demonstrations over the past couple of years — had an interesting take on the question of Iranian nukes.

The article took it for granted that the regime was building nuclear weapons, and speculated about what “The Day After” the first successful test of an Iranian bomb would be like.

According to the piece, translated by the invaluable Middle East Media Research Institute, which provides English versions of print and broadcast material that most Westerners don’t see, normal daily life would continue with little change for the average Iranian. But for other nations, the impact would be substantial.

The article predicted, “The day after Iran’s first nuclear test will be an ordinary day for us Iranians, but many of us will have a new gleam in our eyes — a gleam of national pride and might.” It cited imaginary headlines from other nations reacting with shock, and then quoted this verse from the Koran: “And prepare against them what force you can and horses tied at the frontier, to frighten thereby the enemy of Allah and your enemy.”

You can read what you wish into that, but note that a major military arm of the Iranian regime says it is looking forward with great glee to the acquisition of atomic warheads.

The major media, reacting to events in the Middle East, have been full of reports about an “Arab Spring” in which reactions against strongman rule have engulfed nations from Libya to Egypt to Yemen in ferment that has overturned some rulers and left others besieged.

Yet Iran went through its own such uprising after the last national election allegedly was stolen by the ruling clique, and that protest was put down violently and effectively by the Revolutionary Guards and other security forces.

The same thing has happened so far in Syria, an Iranian ally, and Moammar Gadhafi holds on to power in Tripoli despite NATO air attacks in support of disorganized rebel forces.

The initial hopes of the disparate revolts have given way to substantial fears that organized groups of Islamists, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, may emerge victorious over groups seeking more freedom.

And yet, all of that ferment could be rendered essentially insignificant if (more likely, when) Iran announces proof it has nuclear weapons.

The face of the region will change quickly and irrevocably. Dissident voices inside Iran will be weakened, while nations that considered themselves immediately threatened could respond either with appeasement and requests for alliance (potentially Iraq and Kuwait) or efforts to create their own deterrent (Saudi Arabia).

Syria and Iranian-allied movements like Hezbollah in Lebanon would be strengthened, Turkey could move even further toward Iran and away from NATO, and Israel could face an immediate threat to its very existence — with who knows what consequences.

In the meantime, the United States is appointing as its new defense secretary Leon Panetta, who told Congress at his confirmation hearing Thursday that he planned to respond to the increasing threats America faces by taking strong action.

Strong action, that is, to impose “fiscal discipline” on our defenders in the U.S. military.

That this could be a long, hot summer may have nothing at all to do with the weather.

M.D. Harmon is an editorial writer. He can be contacted at 791-6482 or at:

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