Recent advances in Iran’s nuclear weapons program show that events are moving extraordinarily swiftly, as Tehran nears the end of its decades-long quest to possess a lethal WMD capability. One thing is certain: If Iran succeeds, the Middle East – and the world – will be far more dangerous and unstable, with substantially increased prospects for further nuclear proliferation. That is why we are facing difficult, risky, and uncertain decisions.
Iran has pursued nuclear weapons since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 overthrew the shah, replacing the monarchy with an authoritarian, theocratic regime.
The mullahs placed the nuclear program (camouflaged as a “civil nuclear power” project) under the increasingly powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a force independent of lran’s regular army, devoted passionately to preserving the revolution.
Iran today is the world’s central banker for international terrorism. It funds and arms terrorist groups worldwide, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Shia terrorists in Iraq, and the Sunni Taliban and other radical in Afghanistan.
In February, President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified that Iran even had a “shotgun marriage, or marriage of convenience” with al Qaida.
Given Iran’s global sponsorship of terrorism, a nuclear Iran could easily deliver nuclear weapons via ballistic missiles (which it has developed in cooperated with North Korea) and by providing them to terrorists for use around the world.
Iran’s objectives in seeking nuclear weapons are clear.
First, Tehran prizes them as the ultimate trump card against Israel (the “little Satan” in the words of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 Revolution) and the United States (the “great Satan”). President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” and he has speculated about “a world without the United States” or Israel.
Given these plainly stated intentions, if Iran were to achieve the capability to launch what former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called a “nuclear Holocaust,” only the hopelessly naive would not see Iran as an existential threat to Israel, and as a grave terrorist menace to America. For the United States, Iran would not be a serious military risk, but it would constitute a classic example of an asymmetric threat, aimed at our innocent civilians rather than military targets.
Second, nuclear weapons would give Iran a firm foundation for Middle East hegemony, and would make it a significant global power. In the centuries-old regional struggle between Persians, Arabs, and other ethnic groups, these weapons would dramatically shift the local balance of power. The threat posed by a nuclear Iran would permit it to dominate the small Arab monarchies across the Persian Gulf, increase its already significant presence, malign influence over Iraq, and challenge Saudi Arabia for dominance throughout the entire theater. Iran’s reach would be not only political, but also economic, as its clout grew dramatically within OPEC, with potentially enormous consequences for the international price of petroleum and the West’s economy.
Third, nuclear weapons would provide Iran and its Shiite faith an enormous advantage in the struggle against Sunni Muslims for dominance within Islam. This battle is currently being fought out in Syria, where Iran’s support for the Assad family dictatorship constitutes a proxy war against the Sunni majority. In Bahrain, a small island off Saudi Arabia’s coast (and once a province of an earlier Iranian empire), the Sunni Arab king rules a population that is 70 pecent Shiite. There, “democratic” reform could well bring a pro-Tehran regime to power.
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