Op−Ed | The dangers of a nuclear Iran
Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 1, 2012 08:11
On Sept. 26, President Barack Obama addressed the U.N. General Assembly, arguing, “A nuclear−armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy.” The President’s message was delivered just weeks after he signed into law the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, imposing the harshest sanctions yet on Iran’s energy and financial sectors. Passed by voice vote in the Senate and 410−11 in the House of Representatives, this bipartisan effort proves the American government’s determination to stop the Iranian nuclear threat.
Although the West would like to see a solution through diplomacy, negotiators have become increasingly skeptical of Iran’s intentions as the regime continues to violate six United Nations Security Council Resolutions and its obligations as a signatory to the Treaty on the Non−Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) reported in May that Iran had doubled its stockpile of medium enriched uranium in a three−month period, putting the regime well on its way to acquiring weapons−grade enrichment status. A nuclear−capable Iran would be able to produce a bomb at a time of its choosing, and that possibility presents a grave threat to U.S. national security both at home and abroad.
Iran’s nuclear weapons program should be placed in the context of Tehran’s broader hegemonic aspirations. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corp has a history of interfering in the affairs of its Middle Eastern neighbors through a variety of programs including funding Hezbollah — designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and other nations — in Lebanon, training President Bashar al−Assad’s forces to slaughter civilians in Syria and supporting insurgents targeting American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. One does not need an arsenal of nuclear−armed missiles to threaten regional peace and stability — a state simply needs to acquire nuclear capability to intimidate its neighbors into submission.
In assessing the Iranian quagmire, policymakers must weigh the regime’s deeds more heavily than its words. The U.S. State Department’s designation of Iran as the most active state sponsor of terrorism and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s sworn mission to “wipe Israel off the map” speaks volumes about its aggressive behavior in the Middle East. If the U.S. is unable to contain Iranian belligerence today, how does it expect to contain a nuclear−capable regime tomorrow? Tehran can already send shockwaves through the oil market simply by threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, and that threat becomes all the more real once Iran breaks past the point of becoming nuclear−capable.
A nuclear−capable Iran would spark a nuclear arms race among Iran’s neighbors, endanger U.S. soldiers in the Middle East and decrease American influence in the region. The containment theory overlooks the likelihood that a regional nuclear arms race would begin if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons capability. Former Saudi member of Parliament Mohammad Aal Zulfa captured this fear well when he stated that, “Iran will undoubtedly lead the countries of the region to obtain the same kind of weapon with which to threaten Iran.” In our own backyard, American policymakers are increasingly worried as Iran strengthens its presence in Latin America and promises to share its technology with nations hostile to U.S. interests, such as Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela.
Statements by the Iranian regime suggest that the harsh impact of sanctions is already being felt, as consumer prices have dramatically risen and the local rial currency has plummeted over 60 percent in value over the last year. While the widespread street protests by Iranians vindicate the efficacy of Western pressure, they also demonstrate that ordinary Iranians seek a government and economy that works for them and not the government elite. The people of Iran have a remarkable and rich history, and the international community must make clear that the undiminished efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear march are aimed solely at the regime.
Iran must be held accountable for its failure to comply with international laws, norms and obligations. The international community must be resolute in its demands that Iran suspend further uranium enrichment immediately. The West has been reflexively negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program for almost a decade now, with no progress and no tangible results. Iran’s willingness to negotiate with the P5+1, or the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, is predicated on their need to forestall increasingly intense international pressure and serves to advance their illicit enrichment activities. As Iran begins to feel the bite of sanctions, the international community must continue to intensify pressure on the regime to abandon its aspirations for nuclear weapons.
Daniel Bleiberg is a senior majoring in international relations. He can be reached at Daniel.Bleiberg@tufts.edu.