As Iran is getting closer and closer to becoming a nuclear armed state, by some estimates having enough material for a single nuclear bomb already, time is very quickly running out on a peaceful resolution to the inevitable crisis that would ensue if Iran reaches its full nuclear ambitions.
There are many reasons why Iran should not be allowed to become a nuclear power. First, they are the foremost sponsor of organized terrorism in the world. Iran provides extensive funding to Hezbollah and Hamas. Hezbollah’s presence in Lebanon prevents that state from being a moderate, democratic friend of the West and pushes it towards Islamic fundamentalism that would have it resemble its neighbor, Syria.
Hezbollah has most likely been involved in the assassinations of multiple moderate members of Lebanon’s government, most recently of Prime Minister Rafik Harir in 2005, and has facilitated their pro-Syrian replacements. It’s terrorist instigations, kidnapping of soldiers and firing of Katushas at population centers on Israel’s northern border led to the second Israel-Lebanon war in 2006. In addition to causing the loss of innocent life, the war led to further destabilization of the volatile region.
Iran also provides extensive funding to Hamas, a terrorist organization whose declared goal of Israel’s destruction justifies, in their eyes, the indiscriminate loss of Palestinian and Israeli lives. Hamas’s take over of Gaza, which involved the torture and murder of members of the rival Fatah, has put it in full control of the territory. It has used this position to fire thousands of Iranian made missiles at Israeli population centers.
A nuclear armed Iran would mean nuclear armed Hezbollah and Hamas which would push the already explosive turmoil that these groups are sowing to new levels. This leads us to the second great concern over a nuclear armed Iran. Iran would not discriminate in nuclear arms sales and organized terrorists like Hezbollah and Hamas would not be the only ones to end up with nuclear weapons. Smaller, rogue groups that came up with sufficient cash could also purchase nuclear weapons from Iran as they saw fit. This would put the entire world and not just the regular targets of Hezbollah and Hamas, Israelies and moderate Lebanese, within the scope of Iranian made nuclear weapons.
Third, a nuclear Iran would lead to nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. Countries across the moderate to extreme spectrum, from Egypt to Saudia Arabia, would feel threatened by a nuclear, omnipotent Iran and would themselves pursue nuclear weapons. Weather they succeeded or not, the outcome for regional stability would be grim – countries that failed to acquire nuclear weapons would resort to being Iran’s puppet states, countries that succeeded would add to the potential that a nuclear weapon got used.
Conditions are ripe to halt this problem before it spirals completely out of control. Iran is facing an economic perfect storm with falling oil revenues, spiraling inflation, poverty and high joblessness. The Iranian economy is in dire straits-the Iranian government is trying to drive down its unemployment numbers by counting students and housewives as employed. These conditions mean that at least a significant fraction of the Iranian population must be fed up with their government’s expenditure on research towards nuclear weapons instead of on local infrastructure – schools and hospitals. Now is the time to use economic diplomacy and hope that these potential allies on the inside will help prevent war.
There is a flip side to the condition of the Iranian economy. High unemployment and general unrest make it easier for a totalitarian leader like Ahmadenajad to manipulate the populace into accepting a scapegoat solution – development and use of nuclear weapons. Thus the same conditions that give us a better opportunity for peaceful, diplomatic action also make the window for such a solution narrower.
So what can we do? The optimal solution would be a comprehensive, world wide carrots and sticks policy. These efforts have been stifled by international companies and countries who have refused to seize dealing with Iran. There are five companies that provide refined petroleum to Iran, Total, Vitol, Trafigura, Reliance Industries and British Petroleum. These companies are enabling Iran to reach their goals and undermining the difficult economic situation that could prove crucial to a peaceful transition of Iran’s direction.
In addition to the five companies above, Russia and China must be convinced to cease doing business with Iran. The efforts must succeed in convincing all that they each have more to lose in security than to gain economically by cooperating with Iran. If these companies and countries come on board, there is a chance that Iran will be stopped now before they master the fuel cycle and achieve industrial capacity in their efforts to enrich uranium.
It is urgent to work on these issues today because a nuclear Iran will almost certainly result in nuclear weapons in the hands of organized terrorist like Hezbollah and Hamas, nuclear weapons in the hands of smaller, rogue terror cells that may operate in the Middle East as well as the West, and lead to nuclear proliferation in the already volatile Middle East. The time to work with America’s allies to solve the Iranian threat – hopefully peacefully – is now.