Washington Times: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's calls to wipe Israel off the map are being renewed with different nuances, but are most accurately expressed by the incessant hum of several thousand centrifuges enriching uranium in Natanz.
The Washington Times
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's calls to wipe Israel off the map are being renewed with different nuances, but are most accurately expressed by the incessant hum of several thousand centrifuges enriching uranium in Natanz. Each day those centrifuges spin bring Iran closer to a military nuclear capability.
The gravity and scope of the Iranian threat will not be confined to Israel, however. A military nuclear capability underwriting Iran's support of terror in the region will threaten moderate Arab countries and enable Iran to project its power in a more dangerous way as well as expand its footprint in the region.
Emblematic of this growing footprint has been Iran's substantial assistance to Hamas in recent years. Hamas, backed by Iran, has been able to maintain its control of Gaza and amass and extend the range of rockets that have been used against southern Israel. Similarly in Lebanon, Iran replenished Hezbollah's stockpiles of short- and longer -range rockets since the 2006 war, tripling their number to 40,000 and threatening northern Israel.
Tehran's major strategic partner in the region is Syria, which impacts the fragile political situation in Lebanon, undermines Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, and has assisted the insurgency in Iraq. Iran's role in Iraq and Afghanistan serves the projection of Iranian power and influence in areas of vital strategic importance. Iran is placing itself in a position where it could severely impact the flow of global energy supplies and pursue a destabilizing, hegemonic role in the region.
All international action should flow from the principle that Iran cannot be allowed to develop and acquire a nuclear-weapons capability. There have been serious diplomatic efforts to engage and bring Iran to the table, but in the final analysis, Iran has been the one to reject or evade these offers. Merely enhancing incentives will not entice Iran to give up its nuclear program, but will validate Iran's hardline policy against any concession in the nuclear arena.
As Iran proceeds to a critical phase of its nuclear program, it will attempt to manipulate the international community with the central goal of gaining more time. Pressure must be intensified as a preamble to any renewed engagement with Iran. The absence of such pressure thus far is the reason Iran has chosen defiance over compliance. Rewarding intransigence will only guarantee its recurrence.
The political resolve to prevent a nuclear Iran must be greater than Iran's determination to continue its efforts to develop nuclear weapons. The international community should insist on Iran's compliance with all relevant Security Council and IAEA resolutions and adopt additional tough sanctions such as forbidding arms transfers to Iran, further designating for sanctions Iranian banks that have been involved in financing terrorism and taking tougher measures in the trade and finance sectors.
Major energy deals with Iran should be banned and sanctions extended to Iran's refined gasoline imports. Although rich in oil reserves, Iran has become heavily dependent on refined gasoline from abroad, making it vulnerable to international pressure, particularly during this global economic crisis and period of low oil prices.
The political will to use all the tools of diplomacy to pressure Iran can change its behavior provided it is credible, focused and sustained. Sanctions have worked in the past in relation to Libya and can work in relation to Iran if they are backed by a determined resolve.
The end of all enrichment and reprocessing activities in Iran must remain a fundamental basis for any dialogue. Iran cannot be allowed to maintain a limited enrichment capability on its soil. Such an arrangement would not stop Iran from developing a nuclear-weapons capability, but will in fact facilitate its covert procurement.
Any overall strategy regarding Iran should be a combination of red-line diplomacy accompanied by an international determination to use other means should diplomacy fail. All options must remain on the table. The consequence of inaction and having to deal with a nuclear-armed Iran will be infinitely worse and far more costly.
Tough and unyielding diplomacy combining deadlines and red lines can still prevent a nuclear Iran, but the countdown continues and critical time is being lost.
Jeremy Issacharoff is deputy chief of mission for the Embassy of Israel in Washington.