Only the U.S. Can Peacefully End Iranian Nukes
Israel's deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon recently declared that the (nearly decade-long) diplomatic efforts to stop Iran's nuclear program have failed. Last Friday, Iranian President Ahmadinejad called Israel a "tumor" that will soon be destroyed -- the latest of many bellicose statements underscoring the seriousness of the Iranian threat. There is little time left to avoid another Middle East conflict that could spin disastrously out of control, leave many dead, and send oil prices skyrocketing. But the U.S. can still resolve this explosive crisis by using much bigger carrots and sticks to convince Iran to change course before it's too late.
Only a truly credible threat of overwhelming force against Iran will peacefully prevent a potential doomsday scenario from becoming reality, and only the U.S. can deliver such a threat. Paradoxically, if Iran believes that the U.S. is about to launch a massive attack, it will back down, and no force will be needed. But if Iran doubts American resolve, it will continue to develop an independent nuclear capability and could even purchase nuclear weapons from Pakistan, making it impossible for any power to stop Iran from becoming another nuclear proliferator. The Iranian regime must understand that it faces devastating consequences if it attempts -- by any means -- to acquire nuclear weapons.
The threat of force should be used to achieve something far more effective than the illusory "arrangement" settled on with North Korea in 1994. The goal with Iran must be a Libya-style total disarmament, removing equipment and material from Iran's nuclear weapons program, with independent verification by the IAEA.
Such a disarmament is the only way to eliminate the many risks posed by Iranian nukes. These dangers potentially include: (i) nuclear proliferation, because other countries in the volatile Middle East will feel threatened into wanting their own nuclear programs; (ii) the transfer of nuclear materials from Iran -- the world's chief sponsor of terrorism -- to terrorist organizations and/or states; (iii) bolder attacks by terrorist groups protected by an Iranian nuclear umbrella; and (iv) an even more belligerent Iran that flexes its nuclear arsenal to: export its radical Islamic ideology, acquire disputed territories and resources from neighboring countries, and/or undertake actions like blocking the Strait of Hormuz to increase the price of oil.
Iran violently quelled the democratic aspirations of its citizens in 2009 and has actively supported the brutal crackdown on Syrian protesters. The Islamic Republic directly and through its proxies threatens stability in Lebanon, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, Iraq, and the Gulf area. Iran is also responsible for many deaths of American and coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As clear as it is today that a nuclear weapon in the hands of the Third Reich would have spelled catastrophe, so should it be clear with the Iranian theocracy. Allowing Iran to acquire or develop nuclear weapons could lead to horrific destruction on an unthinkable scale. Even well-intentioned reformers will need time to transform Iran's governing system and political culture. Thus, the world must wait for major changes before concluding that Iran can be trusted with the world's most dangerous weapons.
To be fair and to show good faith to Iran, the threat of overwhelming military force for non-compliance should be complemented by hugely generous rewards for Iranian cooperation. In exchange for the verifiable dismantling of Iran's entire nuclear program, the U.S. should compensate Iran financially for related losses and provide other economic and political benefits that are collectively far more advantageous to Iran than a nuclear weapon would be. These benefits could include, for example, (i) replacing economic sanctions with European Union and U.S. free trade agreements and (ii) providing a written security guarantee -- adopted by the U.N. Security Council, if needed -- that neither the U.S. nor any of its Middle Eastern allies (including Israel) will initiate an attack on Iran. If the Iranian regime is peaceful (or rational), then it should readily accept such an attractive bargain. But if Iran rejects this offer, then its regime is clearly on a nuclear warpath that must be stopped by the only world power that can do so swiftly and decisively, and without producing a nuclear war that consumes the entire region and leaves many millions dead.
Iran has frequently called for the destruction of Israel and has -- despite the sanctions against it -- actively worked to acquire the means to annihilate Israel whenever it chooses. The tiny Jewish state doesn't have the luxury of ignoring such a threat and, unfortunately, cannot wait much longer for a diplomatic solution.
Every day, the Middle East moves closer to an Armageddon-type showdown that could force Israel's hand. Only the U.S. has the power to resolve the matter peacefully, with a grand bargain, and decisively, if necessary, with overwhelming force. Our world depends on such an intervention, and history is watching.
Noah Beck recently published The Last Israelis, a doomsday novel about the Iranian nuclear threat. His editorial is largely based on the epilogue to that book. For more details about the author and book, see www.TheLastIsraelis.com.