As international efforts to dispose of Moammar Gaddafi escalate, less and less attention is given to the real international threat in the region: Iran. While the Arab Spring has taken out or severely weakened hostile regimes throughout the Middle East, Iran has continued its dangerous buildup of nuclear material. At this point the nuclear ambitions of Iran's dictatorial regime have become clear: they want a bomb. The regime continues to enrich large amounts of uranium to 20%, far beyond the amount needed for nuclear power and about 90% of the way to nuclear-grade fuel. Just recently Iran began to move nuclear enrichment facilities to deep underground bunkers to avoid the possibility of outside intervention. Finally, it has been often reported that Iran is conducting research on a neutron initiator using uranium deuteride (UD3), the only purpose of which is to trigger a nuclear reaction in a warhead. With Iran's president -- and I use that term loosely -- being described by American diplomats as "unbalanced" and "crazy," this threat can no longer be ignored.
And in many ways it hasn't. Just this past year Congress passed their strictest set of sanctions ever against Iran's regime, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010. Unfortunately, as Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), John Kyl (R-AZ), and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) have noted, the enforcement of these sanctions has been far from effective; "[w]e are deeply concerned with what appear to be sanctionable activities by other entities involving energy investments in Iran, the provision of refined petroleum products to Iran, financial relationships with Iran, as well as the regime's proliferation activities."
The American government isn't the only one concerned about failing international efforts to stop Iran's nuclear expansions. As leaked diplomatic cables showed last fall, other Middle East governments are equally concerned with the threat a nuclear Iran poses to the region. Shortly after the WikiLeaks scandal broke, the British newspaper The Guardian reported that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had "frequently exhorted the U.S. to attack Iran to put an end to its nuclear weapons program," with Abudllah even going as far as saying, "[C]ut the head off the snake."
Furthermore, Iran is taking the threat of outside intervention seriously, practicing war games and frequently displaying its military might. In response to a question about their quest for longer-range ballistic missiles, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's aerospace force, stated, "[T]he range of our missiles has been designed on the basis of the distance to the Zionist regime and the US bases in the Persian Gulf region." While this may seem like a familiar situation -- both sides anxiously preparing for an impending conflict -- what seems to be ignored is the fact that Iran has already started the war.
Iran for years has been the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism -- funding, arming, and training organizations like Hamas, Hezb'allah, and others that senior Revolutionary Guard officials call "liberation armies." Leaked diplomatic cables even suggest a strong cooperation between Iran and Al Qaeda is far from dormant. Furthermore, Iran has been accused of financially and militarily supporting rebels fighting American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to a March 2009 report by the Council on Foreign Relations, for years Iranian-made weapons, including the Tehran-designed roadside bomb -- the explosively formed penetrator (EFP) -- have been used by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, prompting former Defense Secretary Robert Gates in June 2007 to state, "[G]iven the quantities that we're seeing, it is difficult to believe that it's associated with smuggling or the drug business or that it's taking place without the knowledge of the Iranian government." Recently, reports surfaced of Iranian assistance to rebels fighting American forces in Iraq. In his first visit to Iraq as defense secretary, Leon Panetta stated, "[W]e're very concerned about Iran and the weapons they're providing to extremists in Iraq. We cannot sit back and simply allow this to continue."
Yet thus far the United States and the rest of the world continue to sit back and wait -- wait for something to draw us into the inevitable. On October 14, 1962 President John F. Kennedy addressed the world: "It shall be the policy of this nation, to regard any nuclear missile, launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere, as an attack, by the Soviet Union, on the United States." We can only hope that it will not take a nuclear attack for this country to realize that we are already at war.