OPINION: Policy to preempt a nuclear Iran
COLUMN DIVIDED: From the left
Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 21, 2013 02:03
Iran has long been a thorn in the side of American foreign policy. There is a sad irony in the fact that the only nation to use nuclear weapons in war is now a leading advocate for non-proliferation, yet in the case of Iran, their hostile unpredictability leaves us little choice. Serious decisions need to be made. However, the United States must pursue diplomacy to the fullest extent possible.
While a nuclear Iran would prove destabilizing, America’s history of intervention is complicated. Coups and support for the shah only served to spark the Iranian Revolution, which peaked with the embassy takeover and hostage crisis, bringing anti-American sentiments to a climax. Though there has been minimal military engagement with Iran, experiences from Iraq and Afghanistan have taught harsh lessons in the difficulty of invasion and occupation in the Middle East.
Although anti-American rhetoric and inflammatory opposition to Israel prove Iran wants to be perceived as threatening, the acquisition of nuclear weapons is simply not in their rational self-interest. They are fully aware that the pursuit of the bomb would result in the devastation of their country either through total isolation or military strikes from its enemies. Iran’s course is unsustainable and they are perfectly aware of it.
There are several advantages at this critical juncture which make a diplomatic approach plausible. Crippling sanctions have devastated the Iranian economy, costing tens of billions of dollars. Iran, more than ever, finds itself without allies with the civil war in Syria debilitating the country and strong world powers such as Russia and China, formerly reluctant to side with the U.S., now increasing their pressure. Further, the pursuit of nuclear weapons is only supported by a small minority of Iranians. Despite the power of President Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah Khamenei, regular uprisings make it clear they do not have the support of their own people.
Despite these circumstances, Iran seems determined to defy the world. If successful, the tenuous balance in the Middle East would be dangerously offset, leading both enemies and allies to pursue counterproductive actions which could escalate quickly. Though it is unlikely Iran would ever use such a weapon due to the assurance of retaliatory destruction, the threat is almost as effective.
The only way to reduce the tension is through diplomacy. That being said, the U.S. and its allies should not sit back and wait. As in the past, work with the global community is vital. The U.N.’s economic sanctions have been the greatest blow dealt to Iranian resistance in decades. Heightened defense is essential, such as the success of Israel’s missile defense system in the recent conflict with Egypt. Finally, Iran needs to be aware that although the use of force is a last resort, it is preferable to nuclear holocaust. That being said, there is no justification for preemptive strike on foreign soil without provocation. Violence only leads to violence and an American attack would bring the entire region into chaos without hope of reasonable success.
– Mike McPhie is a senior from Toole, Utah, majoring in law and constitutional studies. During the spring semester, he interned in Washington, D.C. Send him comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.