The true motivation for the Iranian nuclear program is far from humanitarian
On June 12 of last year, Iranians went to the polls with a message of change similar to the one that recently swept through America. That day, Iranians voted en masse in what was thought to be a relatively unimportant but close election for the weak office of Iranian president. Sitting President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad gained a sweeping 63 percent of the vote. The nearest challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, received a surprisingly low 33 percent, having apparently lost numerous districts in his voter heartland. This clearly rigged election surprised the entire world - not because it was rigged, but because it gave birth to Iran's Green movement. Since that day, the Green movement has challenged the Iranian government at every opportunity. As a result, Iran has seen its worst turmoil since the Iranian revolution four decades ago. National and religious holidays have been turned into days of protest. Students have been reprimanded and even banned from universities for participating in opposition activities, political prisoners have been reported tortured and several dissidents have been executed on trumped up charges. The Iran of today is one that is experiencing a changing political climate that must be encouraged. From across the world, America watches, hopes and waits. Unfortunately, waiting is not an option. The ever present nuclear issue prevents us from waiting.
Buried deep within a mountain, under a Revolutionary Guards military base in the Iranian holy city of Qom, is a nuclear facility. In September, the lid was blown off the site's secrecy as Western powers finally decided to reveal the installation's existence. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated that "[t]he size and configuration of this facility is inconsistent with a peaceful [nuclear] program." French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared that "[i]f by December there is not an in-depth change by the Iranian leaders, sanctions will have to be taken." As if these statements were not damning enough, an article by the German weekly Der Spiegel in January provided what is tantamount to proof of Iran's militaristic intentions. The article reveals that Iran's nuclear program is not run by a single agency as claimed by Iran. In fact, Der Spiegel reveals that Iran's nuclear program is split between a civilian enrichment program and a second program. This second program is administered by the Iranian defense establishment and is believed by Western intelligence to be focused on making a viable nuclear warhead. This indisputably shows that Iran is working covertly towards attaining the bomb, which is something that the world cannot accept.
The day that Iran gets the bomb is the day that a huge blow is struck to American interests. Set aside the fact that, starting that day, Iran could 'wipe Israel off the map' with a bomb each to Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem. An atomic Iran can operate with impunity under a nuclear umbrella. It can use its newfound power to decide the fates of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Terrorist organizations allied with Iran would also be operating under the nuclear umbrella Iran would offer. Hamas in the Gaza Strip would be able to end the prospects for any peace process between the Palestinians and Israel. The Lebanese terror organization Hezbollah would benefit even more due to its doctrinal similarity to Iran's current regime. Unfortunately, all of these occurrences pale in comparison to the real reason that Iran can never be allowed to have the bomb. A nuclear armed Iran would set off a nuclear arms race in the already volatile Middle East. Like Pakistan's response to India getting the bomb, Sunni and allied Shia nations would launch their own programs. If Iran gets the bomb then the conflict rich Middle East would turn into a powder keg. The clear conclusion is that everything must be done to stop Iran from going nuclear.
The question becomes how to stop Iran from getting the bomb without compromising the efforts of Iran's opposition movement. Diplomatic efforts, while admirable, have failed. Iran has all but closed the door on the attempted Western trade deal offered in recent months. The extreme of a military strike is always on the table, but must only be a last resort measure. It would rally Iranians behind the current regime and give Iran cause to turn the screws up via its proxies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Gaza, and Lebanon. The only tool left in our toolbox is targeted sanctions.
Some claim that sanctions only result in a Cuban scenario, in which the Cuban economy has a great deal of trade with Europe and Latin America despite the U.S. embargo. In the case of Iran, nothing is further from the truth. Iran is one of the world's largest oil producers and has a population that believes it is entitled to cheap gasoline. The same Iran currently imports around 40 percent of its refined petroleum due to a severe lack of refining infrastructure. Halting shipments from what are for the most part only five largely European companies would greatly impede Iran from subsidizing gas. The last time Iran raised its gas price to around 33 cents a gallon, as a result of huge deficits caused by the world recession, there were riots. Several gasoline stations were burned. The actual damage to the Iranian people of having to pay the average world price of gas is not considerable. The damage to the Iranian government, however, would be great. If President Barack Obama issues a message of solidarity with the opposition in conjunction with such targeted sanctions, then he can kill two birds with one stone. The first is that the Iranian government will be weakened and will be that much closer to capitulating on the nuclear issue. The second is that the opposition will be buoyed knowing it has international support. What must be done is clear. Now it is only a matter of actually doing it.
Joel Taubman is a first-year in the Engineering School. This opinion is supported by College Republicans Chair Loren A. Monk.