Let me start by saying three things:
- I support diplomatic efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons
- I support the Schumer-Menendez-Kirk bill
- I don’t think there are any right answers here, but only answers that are less wrong than other ones
Inherent in the first statement is the fact that I do not believe Iran’s claims it is pursuing nuclear power for peaceful purposes. I believe there is one purpose behind Iran’s nuclear program and that is the development of a nuclear weapon. That said, I do not believe the Iranians would be stupid enough to use nuclear weapons on Israel. The ayatollahs, as 2009 demonstrated, are interested, first and foremost in the maintenance of their power. The surest way to lose that power is to use nuclear weapons on Israel. Israel would have no compunctions about massive retaliation against Iran in such a situation and no reasonable person could fault Israel for taking such action.
While many would argue that support for the Schumer-Menendez-Kirk bill is the quickest way to end the diplomatic process and ensure war, I believe that wrongly reads the situation. It was the pressure brought to bear by sanctions, and the effect upon the Iranian economy, that caused Iran to come to the negotiating table in the first place. To successfully conclude a deal to end the prospect of Iranian nuclear weapons requires that Iran understand that consequences exist in the event negotiations fail. The threat of additional sanctions helps serve that purpose.
I understand that taking a stronger line could lead to military action. However, there are, unfortunately, certain cases where military action is unavoidable. I believe that an Iran on the cusp of obtaining nuclear weapons constitutes such a case. It is not just the fact that religious extremists in Iran would possess such a dangerous weapon in their arsenal. An Iranian weapon would likely lead to massive nuclear proliferation in the Middle East with many other regional powers seeking to obtain nuclear weapons to counter Iran.
Furthermore, there are now reports that Iran is already violating the terms of the interim agreement:
Reports of an oil-for-goods swap being negotiated between Iran and Russia have prompted some Democrats to accuse Tehran of violating the terms of the interim deal. The White House said it shared those concerns, noting that Secretary of State John Kerry raised the matter with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, on Monday.
Such a deal would be “inconsistent” with the agreement and “could potentially trigger U.S. sanctions,” said a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, Caitlin M. Hayden.
This only further demonstrates that a strong stick must exist in addition to the carrot. The Iranians, for good reason, were not trustworthy prior to this interim agreement and this only further demonstrates the reason why. The ink on the interim agreement is still in the process of drying and the Iranians are already skirting its edges if not already violating it.
The ultimate irony of the bill is that it may not even prove necessary. It seems there exists the chance that before it could even get to President Obama’s desk for him to veto sanctions against Iran would already be back in place due to Iranian actions.
I deeply respect President Obama. I think overall, and particularly in foreign policy, he has done an excellent job. I fully support his push for peace in the Middle East and finally ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, in this instance, I believe that he is too trusting of the Iranians and needs to be somewhat more skeptical. I understand we do not make peace with our friends, but Iran needs to understand that there will be serious consequences if it violates agreements it has signed and continues with its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
President Obama would be well served to remind the Iranians that there is a very strong waiting in the background if they abuse the carrot.