The time and space devoted to the issue of a possible Israeli military strike on Iran in the media, think tank conferences, the blogosphere and in governments around the world — including the “inside baseball” ruminations whether one or another Israeli minister or former official is for or against a military strike — detract from the one truly important issue that international decision-makers and the public need to truly grapple with when thinking about Iran: what will the world look like if Iran is successful in its quest to build a nuclear weapon?

World powers, as indicated by the six United Nations Security Council resolutions that demanded Iran stop its nuclear enrichment program, share a unanimous view that Iran’s quest to obtain nuclear weapons capability is not a positive development for global peace and security and will emphatically make the world a less safe place. It is clear to them that Iran has unabashedly lied to their nuclear watchdog agency, the IAEA, for years, and that it’s supposed “peaceful” nuclear program is actually anything but.

The theological nature of the Islamic state, its support of terrorism, its abuse of human rights, and its decade-long unwillingness to negotiate a solution to the nuclear issue — all add to the tremendous global unease we are all witnessing as the international sanctions regime on Iran tightens.

So what would the ramifications of a nuclear Iran be at the international level?

An Iran with nuclear weapons will assuredly have an immediate effect on countries like Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, exerting pressure on them to develop their own nuclear weapons capability, and sparking an arms race in a progressively unstable region of the world that is of great importance to the interests of the world’s economic powers. Iran’s unyielding regional and international efforts to expand its influence — note its diplomatic and economic inroads in Latin America and Africa — continue to be a destabilizing factor. Throughout the region, from Afghanistan to Gaza, the Iranians are arming and training radical, fundamentalist groups whose goals are to install strong regimes that will implement Islam as a total way of national life without free choice. “Successful” examples of such regimes can be found in places like Gaza and South Lebanon.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits a nuclear research facility in Tehran (photo credit: AP/Iranian President's Office)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits a nuclear research facility in Tehran (photo credit: AP/Iranian President's Office)

In other countries Iran supports terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah’s cells all across the globe, from Latin America through the Middle East to East Asia; Palestinian Islamic Jihad; at least until recently, Hamas; and militant groups in Iraq, such as Kata’ib Hezbollah, the Promise Day Brigade and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq. In Afghanistan, the Pentagon last year traced to Iran the Taliban’s acquisition of rockets that give its fighters increased range to attack NATO and US targets. Last year the US even confirmed an Iran-Al Qaeda connection, accusing Tehran of permitting al-Qaeda operatives to smuggle money and people through its territory to the terrorist group’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

These groups have inflicted casualties on American, British, Australian and other multinational forces.

Simultaneous to its nuclear program, Iran’s diverse and ambitious ballistic missile development program has also been moving ahead, according to international analysts and Western government officials. It is widely believed that Iran now has missiles capable of hitting parts of Europe and Russia. Experts say that it’s only a matter of time before all of Europe will be within Iran’s range. Already in 2010, then-US defense secretary Robert Gates said Iran could shower Europe with “scores or even hundreds” of missiles in a single attack.

A missile program with constantly increasing ranges, coupled with nuclear capability, presents a nightmare strategic scenario for the West.  And if this weren’t bad enough, the Iranian regime has repeatedly and unapologetically vowed to destroy Israel, calling it a “cancer” that must be “cut.”

Tehran has a history of using talks with the P5 +1 — the US, China, Russia, France, UK and Germany — to play for time as it continues to advance its nuclear weapons program. Many experts and officials are concerned Tehran is doing just that again.

The P5+1 leaders and their negotiators must keep this disturbing record in the front of their minds as they begin the much-anticipated talks with the Iranians later this month in Baghdad, and when they evaluate the results. They must not countenance any stalling tactics by the Iranians.

We all hope and pray that a negotiated solution can be reached that will satisfy all of the concerned parties. But in light of Iran’s record, the world must not be naive. There is a reason for all the intensive and ever-intensifying international diplomatic and economic pressure on the Islamic regime at this time. And that is what the world should be focused on.