Of all the problems President-elect Barack Obama will face come January, Iran is likely the most pressing on the international stage. Obama has promised to act forcefully to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions with diplomacy, although he has not dismissed military action.

He may have just received an early Chanukah present.

On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that because of falling oil prices Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Iran would have to cut spending and subsidies and raise taxes.

In other words, Iran is being hurt by the tumbling economy. While falling oil prices are welcomed in America, they signal reduced income for the Islamic Republic, which could translate into reduced income for Hezbollah and other Iran-linked forces meddling in Iraq.

The West can capitalize on this recession to stimulate internal pressure on the Iranian regime to halt its nuclear progress in what may now be the last window of opportunity for a diplomatic solution. Iran may be more open to the economic incentives it had spurned if the Iranians find themselves unable to afford continued belligerence.

Timing is precious, though. Not only are we racing the clock against Iran’s nuclear development, there are also increasing calls here at home to give up the idea of thwarting Iran’s nuclear goals.

Experts from the Council on Foreign Relations and the Saban Center in Washington issued a report earlier this week that, surprisingly, recommended that the U.S. accept a nuclear Iran and turn its focus to diplomacy to keep the Islamic regime from developing nuclear weapons.

With all due respect, these experts are missing the bigger picture of a desperate and financially troubled Iran.

The danger of a nuclear Iran is not that it will attach a nuclear warhead to one of its missiles and fire it at Israel. The resulting nuclear and political fallout, not to mention a second-strike from Israel, would spell disaster for the country.

The danger was that once Iran had the technology and the know-how, it would pass that information on to its proxy, Hezbollah. Now, a cash-strapped Iran may decide to sell the nuclear technology on the black market to the highest bidder, which could include Hezbollah, Hamas, Al Qaeda, or any number of world actors.

We cannot allow Iran to reach that point and so President Obama must act quickly to take advantage of this change before Iran looks elsewhere for supplemental funding.

J.L.