Sanctioning for safety

A nuclear attack from Iran can be prevented if the United States presents a believable military threat

When I say Iran is the most dangerous country in the world, many think I am trying to beat a war drum. Sam Carrigan wrote a month ago of "An escalating discussion" (March 21) which has been going on in the media. Apparently, "pro-war" forces are conspiring to start an armed conflict with the Islamic Republic. These voices in actuality are doing everything possible to avert a strike on Iran while still halting the regime's nuclear proliferation.

Mere interest in developing nuclear technology is not a threat. More than a dozen other Middle Eastern nations are increasing their nuclear know-how for various civilian purposes, many of them with U.S. help. The danger arises when a nation such as Iran insists on secrecy while it enriches uranium to higher and higher levels.

Iran has repeatedly refused to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to view its nuclear sites. In response, the IAEA has issued numerous reports not only on Iran's worrying enrichment, but also on the Islamic Republic's research into detonators and missile integration. In 2009, it was revealed by the U.S., British and French governments that Iran had been building a secret nuclear enrichment site deep into a mountain near Qom. All of this secrecy would be unnecessary if Iran simply wanted nuclear power.

The world's biggest state sponsor of terror cannot be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. Iran supports a laundry list of terror groups and militias with weapons and training. Some examples include Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Iraq's Shiite militias. Iranian elements 'allegedly' targeted Israeli and Saudi diplomats in countries such as Georgia, Thailand, and the United States. Iran has also given much support to Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on Syria's democracy movement. Iran undoubtedly was able to pass along a wealth of experience from the crushing of its own democracy movement in 2009.

Thus, the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran becomes very clear. Terror groups will be emboldened once they can operate under a nuclear umbrella. The Iranian regime will gain a great deal of diplomatic leverage to use in various theaters from oil policy to the global arms trade to domestic crackdowns. The Middle East would likely see a nuclear arms race with several Arab nations already hinting they would seek nukes to counteract Iran's. All of this is terrifying without even considering whether Iran would actually use the bomb or give it to its terrorist proxies.

In response, President Obama and our allies around the world have instituted several rounds of targeted economic sanctions to deter Iran from making the above scenario a reality. The administration has also been working on a comprehensive diplomatic effort to find a peaceful solution. Diplomats were able to meet for talks in Istanbul earlier this month, with the promise of future talks next month. The New York Times Editorial Board voiced its misgivings on the April 16. The board stated that "nothing is ever quick and easy with the Iranians. They are masters at diplomatic sleight of hand and have provided ample reason for mistrust."

The Mullahs have learned from North Korea how diplomacy can be used as a delaying tactic without any real change in behavior. This is why sanctions cannot be reduced in response to any initial hopes from talks. Sanctions must only be reduced in response to concrete actions. This is also why a credible military threat must be in place. The surest way to prevent the United States or Israel from striking Iran's program is to make sure the Iranian government knows we will if we have to.

President Obama stated plainly, "I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." The president understands that this threat to the security of the United States and its allies must be dealt with intelligently. He understands that the United States' leadership on this issue has and will be of vital importance. Through tough diplomacy, tougher sanctions and the presence of a credible military threat, Obama's policy goal can be achieved. In fact, it must be achieved. The alternative is too scary to fathom.

Joel Taubman is a third-year Engineering student.

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