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How to Tackle the Iranian Nuclear Threat

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The vise is beginning to tighten for Iran's mullahs who aspire to become a nuclear power and dominant force in the Middle East. Consider these diverse items:
  • President Obama is hosting a Nuclear Security Summit in Washington to enhance international cooperation to prevent nuclear terrorism, an issue he has identified as the most immediate and extreme threat to global security. Some 40 nations are participating, representing a diverse set of regions and various levels of nuclear expertise.
  • In Iraq, election voters supported the coalition led by secular former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi over that of the current Iranian-backed prime minister Nuri al-Maliki.
  • Another hole was shot into the terrorist label on the exiled Iranian opposition group Mujahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK) with the disclosure that the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security was the source of a report alleging the organization was involved in the suppression of Iraqi Kurds and Shiites in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
What does all this have to do with the mullahs who rule Iran with an iron fist? It means that growing global concern over nuclear terrorism goes hand in hand with growing concern about Iran's efforts to become a nuclear power. Preventing nuclear terrorism is a noble goal, but in reality, the biggest threat would be for a state that sponsors terrorism to gets its hands on nuclear weapons. So, if the goals of the Nuclear Security Summit are, in a nutshell, to find a way to ensure that nuclear materials and weapons don't fall into the hands of terrorists, this week is a good time for President Obama to push for strong sanctions on the Iranian regime, the most active state sponsor of terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

Strict sanctions should be imposed on the regime's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). In recent years, under the supervision of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the IRGC has emerged as the sole protector of the regime.

When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad first became president, Ayatollah Khamenei allowed the IRGC to slowly gain a foothold in all state organs. The role of the IRGC in crucial sectors of the Iranian economy has been constantly on the rise.

Maryam Rajavi, a prominent Iranian opposition leader and the President-elect of the opposition Parliament in exile told the German Bundestag last month, the most important thing the world community could do to deter Iran's race to nuclear capability is to "impose comprehensive sanctions, especially with regards to oil and gasoline, against the regime."

She added, "Opposition to sanctions by citing supposed harm to ordinary Iranians is an enormous deception. We have credible information from inside the regime that even the minimal sanctions on banking have led to crippling effects for the regime. Moreover, the IRGC must be placed on the list of terrorist organizations and the mullahs' intelligence agents in Europe must be expelled."

The IRGC is the key apparatus in suppressing the public, and the main force behind the regime's drive to acquire nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Its role in the regime's intelligence apparatus has grown since the nationwide protests that began last June.

Imposing stiff sanctions on the IRGC and placing it on the terrorist list is long overdue. It would have crippling consequences for the regime.

But, sanctions must be coupled with a change of policy towards the Iranian opposition to exert pressure on the mullahs at home where they are facing an acute crisis.

The time also has come for the MEK to be removed from America's list of terrorist organizations, as evidence makes it clear that it is not now, and never has been, a terrorist organization. That was a myth promulgated by the mullahs and accepted by the West in a failed attempt to mollify Tehran.

The MEK was the party that blew the whistle on the regime's clandestine nuclear program in 2002, triggering Tehran's international isolation. With more than two dozen subsequent revelations, the MEK evolved as one of the major sources of information on the regime's secret projects.

The path for the West is clear: 1. Impose tough sanctions on Iran until it halts its nuclear ambitions, and 2. Recognize and work with the MEK.

The mullahs are teetering in the face of renewed opposition at home. A good push from the West can complete their fall.

Lord King of West Bromwich, a Member of the United Kingdom's House of Lords from the Labour Party, is a member of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom