Recently, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech before a joint session of Congress about the growing crisis in the Middle East. I am not writing this blog to debate the merits and demerits of Mr. Netanyahu’s addressing Congress without President Obama’s permission. People have their opinions on it, and that’s that. As I have written before, people have to get past the speech, itself. Whether one agrees or disagrees with what he said or his right to speak in the first place is not the important issue, and to focus on it obscures the much broader and much more serious point, which, plainly and simply is IRAN CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO DEVELOP NUCLEAR CAPABILITY.
Common sense and past experience tell me that a nuclear-capable Iran cannot be good for the Middle East, for Israel or for the US. This is a country whose leadership continually lies, cheats and obfuscates. They have been fomenting terrorism directed toward the US, Israel and other Western countries. They have vowed to wipe Israel which, last time I checked, is our only dependable ally in the region, off the face of the earth. The leadership is unstable and dangerous. Give me a scenario in which it would be acceptable for Iran to have nuclear capability. There isn’t one.
To paraphrase Secretary of State John Kerry, this is the 21st century, not the 19th. We cannot rely on two vast oceans insulating us from the rest of the world. What happens in the Middle East or elsewhere affects us as well. It affects us militarily, economically, politically and socially.
Even worse, the agreement currently under discussion, the one we are hoping Iran will accept, is a bad deal for the US. As I understand it, (1) Iran would retain a sizeable portion of its nuclear arsenal, and (2) there would a “sunset” provision by which after ten years any restrictions would expire. Talk about “kicking the can down the road!” How does that protect anyone? How is that acceptable? Furthermore, does anyone believe that Iran will live up to its end of the deal in the first place? If we insist on negotiating a deal at least make it a good deal. Negotiating 101 says negotiate from strength. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a bad deal. Iran needs a deal as much as we do, particularly if they know we are willing to re-impose sanctions. Effective sanctions might even bring down the current regime. The mullahs are cognizant of this, and, therefore, if we push them they may be more flexible than we think.
It does not take a geopolitical genius to figure out that Israel cannot and will not stand by and watch Iran develop nuclear capability. It has no choice. It simply cannot afford to do so. At some point it will likely feel compelled to take pre-emptive military action. Many Israelis feel that their very continued viability as a nation depends on preventing Iran from achieving nuclear capability, and they will do whatever is necessary to prevent it. Such action would destabilize the region further, and a destabilized Middle East could easily spill over to the rest of the world politically, militarily and economically.
I view the current situation with Iran as an example of that old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Simply put, the US government should have dealt with this situation years ago when it was a much smaller and more manageable problem. If you have a small fire in your kitchen, put it out immediately. Don’t ignore it until it becomes a conflagration. Now that, by most accounts, Iran is on the very threshold of becoming a nuclear power what was a small, manageable problem has become a huge problem with no easy solutions.
Our choices are limited. No one is advocating boots on the ground, and even if we wanted to bomb the nuclear facilities, they are well disseminated and buried deeply underground. The way I see it, the best approach would be to re-impose strong, effective economic sanctions. They were working before. Their effectiveness was what brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place. Now, as a result of the precipitous decline in the price of oil worldwide, Iran’s economy is in dire straits, and the sanctions should be even more effective. Don’t wait for the talks to breakdown months from now when it might be too late. Iran has been stalling us while they work feverishly toward their objective. Do it now! Then, continue to negotiate, but from strength.