Last weekend marks another failure of Iran to respond to an informal deadline as to whether it will negotiate on freezing parts of its nuclear program. One might question why this matters, should the world fear a nuclear Iran? The answer hinges on whether Iran plans to use its nuclear power for a legitimate means. A close examination of the Islamic Republic's words and deeds since 2002 -- when its covert nuclear aspirations were exposed -- provides insight into the regime's intentions.
Time and again Iran has given duplicitous answers when questioned about its pursuit of nuclear power and sponsorship of terrorist activity. It therefore, begs the question, can we trust the words of Iranian Vice President Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei, when he recently said, "Iran wants no war with any country, and today Iran is friend of the United States and even Israel... Our achievements belong to the whole world and should be used for expanding love and peace?"
At the Geneva conference last Saturday (July 21, 2008), EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, proposed Iran take a six-week break from its nuclear program of manufacturing centrifuges that enrich uranium. Iran declined. The refusal to temporarily freeze its nuclear program again raises suspicion and suggests that the apparently diplomatic position of Iran's Vice President, is a plot to further envelop the actions of Iran in a cloud of ambivalence.
The breached deadline last weekend clarifies to the international community it is time to recognise that Iran's dishonest conduct must be attacked, not appeased.
A sceptic would question how we know Iran's enrichment of uranium is not going to be used for peaceful purposes. The answer is clear. A peaceful nuclear program uses uranium enriched to between 3- 5%. A nuclear weapon uses uranium enriched to 90% or more. The U.N have repeatedly offered Iran nuclear technology suitable for generating energy, but not for building a weapon. Iran has persistently refused. Evidently Iran wants enriched uranium for more than peaceful energy uses.
The sceptic would probe further, why does the world fear a nuclear Iran? The answer is not the threat of Iran firing a nuclear weapon. It is the fear of Iran giving the technology to a terrorist organization. A legitimate fear considering Iran's fingerprint remains imprinted on many terrorist attacks across the Middle East, and is the known sponsor of Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Further, Iran's policy aims toward the destruction of Israel, a sovereign nation. The Iranian President stated, June 3, 2007 "with God's help, the countdown button of the Zionist regime has been pushed by the hands of the children of Lebanon and Palestine. By God's will, we will witness the destruction of this regime in the near future." This directly contradicts the peaceful message of Vice President Rahim-Mashaei. Iran cannot be trusted and the sceptic's argument is without merit.
The words of Ehud Olmert are apt, "the international community has a duty and responsibility" to ensure Iran ends its pursuit of nuclear weaponry. But, how should we take further action? There are at least three possible answers i) military action ii) increase international legal and economic pressure on Iran and iii) regime change by assisting and encouraging domestic challenges to the Islamic Republic.
Military action, if taken, would have to be totally successful otherwise it would be counterproductive, causing huge ramifications on oil prices in the West. The war in Iraq is incomparable to the situation in Iran which is much larger and geographically more diverse. It is also somewhat hypocritical to take military action against Iran when countries such as Pakistan, North Korea and Russia also have nuclear energy programs. However, the crucial difference is that Iran poses a direct threat to a sovereign nation and has been thoroughly dishonest about the intent of its program.
While it is true that sanctions succeeded in South Africa but failed in Iraq, the international community has to try again. Stricter political and economic sanctions must involve Russia and China. All ports must be closed. The Iranian regime must be brought before the International Court of Justice and tried for inciting genocide.
Clearly, the answer is yes, the world should fear a nuclear Iran. The international community must enforce stronger sanctions against Iran. Iran must be stopped now, otherwise war will be our only option.