Increasingly High Stakes with Iran
By Paul Quanrud
On March 5, 2012, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Obama. This was their ninth meeting in three years, and the stakes have not been higher. The potential of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons is a direct threat to both Israel and the U.S.
Before their meeting, Obama and Netenyahu shed little light on their disagreements over Iran.
In a statement made 24-hours earlier to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, Obama stated “I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say. That includes all elements of American power: a political effort aimed at isolating Iran, a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored, an economic effort that imposes crippling sanctions and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.”
Prime Minister Netenyahu responded to Obama’s AIPAC speech by saying he was pleased. “I very much appreciated the fact that President Obama reiterated his position that Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons and that all options are on the table. Most important of all, I appreciated the fact that he said that Israel must be able to defend itself by itself against any threat.”
Based on their public statements, you would expect that diplomatic efforts and sanctions have had some success in stopping Iran. Not true. Obama wants diplomacy and more time for sanctions against Iran to work, and Netenyahu needs the U.S. to back Israel as the potential for military action becomes more imminent.
Iran is steadily moving toward atomic weapons, a situation verified by the United Nations. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) stated in November 2011 that “Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device” and that their efforts may still be under way.
In June 2011, outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated that most intelligence estimates predicted Iran was one to three years away from a nuclear weapon.
While Iran appears to be nearing the ability to use nuclear weapons (against Israel and elsewhere), the internal political pressure to do this very thing has been ratcheting up inside Iran. With an economy based on oil exports, Iran has been in hardship the last several years. The popular Iranian Green movement is picking up support while the Islamic fundamentalists, led by Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, are doing all to maintain power.
To stir up public sentiment in Iran against the U.S. and our allies, Khamenei recently said that “the arrogant powers are bullying us to maintain their prestige.” Whether they call us “arrogant powers”, or the “Great Satan”, the Islamic hardliners inflame the Iranian public to keep themselves in power. The Islamic fundamentalists used the connection of the U.S with the Shah of Iran to gain power in 1979. Islamic fundamentalists have been in power since the Islamic revolution.
The Shifting Balance of Power
Dramatic shifts in the balance of power are occurring in the Middle East due to progress of Iran toward atomic arms. If the U.S. hesitates in applying pressure on Iran and is slow in support of Israel, the balance of power may tilt permanently toward Iran and away from the U.S.
In a statement to an Atlantic reporter, the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the United States, Yousef al-Otaibaif, said, “There are many countries in the region who, if they lack the assurance the U.S. is willing to confront Iran, they will start running for cover towards Iran. Small, rich, vulnerable countries in the region do not want to be the ones who stick their finger in the big bully’s eye, if nobody’s going to come to their support.”
Arab states will not wait for the U.S. to deal with the nuclear threat imposed by Iran. As Iran quickly becomes the emerging power of the region, and if the U.S. backs away from our role of strategic defense, Arab countries will want to strengthen their own security by aligning with Iran (Iranians are not of Arab heritage, they are Persian).
The United States and Israel cannot afford to watch the dominos fall to Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East. World War I exploded as the dominos (countries) in Europe fell one by one, and the major powers doing too little. It will be too late for us to act if the dominos (countries) in the Middle East begin to fall.
By destroying nuclear reactors in Iraq (1981) and Syria (2007), Israel has clearly demonstrated they are not afraid to eliminate weapons that might be used as weapons against them.
Prime Minister Netenyahu is asking for the firm assurances that the U.S. will support Israel when Israel must act militarily to defend itself against the development of nuclear capability by their enemies.
President Obama faces tough questions as he considers the aggressive behavior of Iran and the lack of success of his diplomatic approach and relatively mild sanctions:
With the opposition Green Movement in Iran, why did Obama refuse to support their efforts to stand strong against Islamic fundamentalists?
Can we believe economic sanctions alone will work against a regime already under political pressure at home, is verified as moving toward nuclear arms capability, and is a sworn enemy of Israel and the U.S.?
Why would the U.S. allow the Middle East to swing toward Iran simply because our leaders waited too long to deal with Iran?
President Obama’s immediate choices are the same that President Reagan faced against the Islamic fundamentalists of Iran. The Iranians of the 1980s had no doubt President Reagan would have acted with strength.
The president must have the will to apply stronger sanctions on an immediate basis including stopping Iran’s oil shipments, restricting refined oil shipments to Iran (they have no refining capability), legally seizing assets, and further banking restrictions. Where necessary, the U.S. must act with Israel with the greatest speed to destroy Iran’s nuclear arms capability.
There is no deterrence against the will of our enemies if our own response lacks the will to act. Indecision is the unavoidable path of weak leadership.
American voters must demand that the candidates, including President Obama, stand strong against Islamic fundamentalists who would destroy our country. The voice of our leaders must once again echo the will of the people by supporting our allies, delivering tough sanctions, and following up with tougher military action. We must not back down in the face of threats to our security; our allies and our children depend on it.
(By Paul Quanrud of American Citizens for Economic Freedom. ACEF (www.truecapitalism.org) is a newly formed PAC, led by prominent business entrepreneur, Peter Vessenes. Peter has been involved with corporate turnarounds since 1982, assisting companies of all sizes and structures during difficult times. He is now lending his talents to the PAC which focuses on the fact that unless we have a true economic recovery in America, the “American Dream” will no longer be achievable. ACEF does not support any particular candidate. We are a collection of concerned citizens from all walks of life, who are trying to restore the American spirit that existed when the first revolutionaries fought for freedom from an oppressive government to establish this country.)