The Unmet Threat Of a Nuclear Iran

Opinion

By Brad Sherman

Published October 27, 2006, issue of October 27, 2006.
  • Print
  • Share Share

A nuclear-armed Iran would be a catastrophe for the United States and the larger international community. It is a catastrophe that we could be doing more to prevent.

The Iranian regime has been listed year after year by our own State Department as No. 1 on its list of state sponsors of terrorism. With nuclear weapons, Iran could blatantly sponsor the most horrific terrorist events, feeling immune from retaliation. The Iranian regime could terrify its Muslim neighbors and interrupt their oil exports. It could inspire neighboring states in the Middle East to develop their own nuclear weapons.

If the Tehran regime got just a little bit crazier, it could smuggle a weapon into the United States and then threaten to explode it if we did not change our policies. Finally, if Iran’s current regime were about to be overthrown — and many of us look forward to that day — it could use its weapons in a final parting shot against Israel or our American allies in the region.

Iran is roughly five years from acquiring nuclear weapons. During the past six years, while Bush often has talked about the problem, we have done virtually nothing to thwart Iran’s nuclear program. Working though European allies, the United States was able to obtain a temporary suspension of enrichment in late 2004, but otherwise Iran’s program has been unimpeded.

The failure of Bush administration diplomats to persuade the United Nations Security Council, particularly Russia and China, to impose sanctions on Iran for developing nuclear weapons is the greatest diplomatic failure of our time. The main reason for the failure is that the State Department has rejected the concept of linkage.

We seek Russia’s help on Iran while refusing to make the slightest concession on issues that the Kremlin cares about, such as the conflicts over Moldova, Chechnya and Abkhazia. Any reasonable America policy would subordinate these issues, which are of only minor importance to us, to the goal of preventing a nuclear Iran.

Likewise, we refuse to link Chinese policy toward Iran with how we deal with China on trade issues, such as how we choose to respond to China’s legally questionable currency manipulations. If we would link the currency issue to the Iran issue, perhaps Beijing would show greater willingness to cooperate with international efforts to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

In addition to its ineffective efforts at the United Nations, the United States has failed to use its own diplomatic, legal and economic tools to stand up to Iran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared in one of his most famous diatribes that the United States should “bow down and surrender.” Mr. Ahmadinejad, we already have.

We began to make unilateral concessions in 2000 when we opened our markets to Iranian exports — not oil, which we could use, but only the stuff Iran cannot sell elsewhere like caviar. Since then, we have acquiesced in World Bank loans to the Iranian government. We allow our corporations to do business in Iran through their foreign subsidiaries. And last year we opened the door to Iran’s membership in the World Trade Organization.

For six years, the Bush administration has violated American law by refusing to apply the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act to billions of dollars of investments in the Iranian oil sector. During the same period, ironically, energy sanctions were effective in changing Libya’s behavior.

Most recently, the Bush administration approved a visa for an propaganda tour of the United States by former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami. Amazingly, the American taxpayer picked up part of the tab to provide security for this promoter of terrorism on his tour. As you may remember, the last time there were American officials in Iran, there wasn’t much security and they were taken hostage and held for 444 days.

If we are to treat the threat of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons with the seriousness it deserves, we should use all our economic and diplomatic power — including linkage in order to win support from China and Russia — to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration has embraced a different option: Talk tough, avoid effective action and take solace in the fact that the policy failure will not become manifest — and Iran will not develop and test a nuclear weapon — until after 2008.

Rep. Brad Sherman, a California Democrat, is a senior member of the House International Relations Committee and the ranking member of its Terrorism and Nonproliferation Subcommittee.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.