The trouble looming with Iran’s nuclear aspirations is potentially one of the most significant problems the new President will inherit from the Bush administration. As Iranian nuclear facilities are developing, international efforts at prohibiting the rogue nation from expanding into nuclear weaponry are proving ineffective. Despite multiple sanctions from the UN Security Council, repeated requests for explanation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and lucrative negotiation offers from Western powers, Iran seemingly remains committed to the path towards an advanced—and dangerous—nuclear program.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) outlined the country’s current nuclear capabilities in the dossier “Nuclear Programmes in the Middle East”:
“The exception is the Russian-built power reactor at Bushehr in Iran, which is nearly completed. Iran is also standing up a gas-centrifuge plant at Natanz, designed to produce low-enriched uranium (LEU) for reactor fuel, but which also would be able to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU) for nuclear weapons. At Arak, Iran is building a heavy-water-moderated research reactor which has various civilian uses, but it is also ideal for producing plutonium for weapons if the spent fuel is reprocessed.”
The surrounding countries aren’t hedging bets on Iran’s intentions as anything less than a nuclear-weapons capability. The IAEA reported Iran to the UN Security Council in February 2006 for traces of HEU. The IISS states that “In the span of the eleven months between February 2006 and January 2007, at least 13 countries in the Middle East announced new or revived plans to pursue or explore civilian nuclear energy.” As gaining nuclear-weapons capability is most easily plausible through first developing peaceful nuclear-energy programs, the reaction of Iran’s neighbors indicates the gravity of the ticking (nuclear) time bomb.
As the situation intensifies, America faces two options: appeasement or confrontation. Inaction on the Iranian nuclear crisis is considered synonymous with appeasement, as the U.N. sanctions and IAEA probes continue to be proven ineffective. Critics of American involvement assert that Iran’s neighbors should handle the impending nuclear calamity, as the U.S. would be unaffected by Iranian nuclear weaponry. However, this viewpoint fails to account for the critical U.S. involvement in the region—whether it be the American troops in Iraq or our expressed military backing of Israel. Also, the future efforts of the other Middle Eastern countries to obtain nuclear capabilities to compete with Iran could lead to a dangerous nuclear proliferation in a chronically-unstable region.
The Bush administration handled the North Korean nuclear crisis by pressuring China into wielding influence over the defiant nation; some call for Israel to handle the Iranian problem almost as an American proxy. Israel has experience handling imminent nuclear threats on the offensive.
The IISS reports that “Israel’s 6 September 2007 bombing of a facility near the town of al-Kibar on the Euphrates Rives in northeastern Syria stopped what appears to have been the initial stage of a Syrian nuclear-weapons programme.” Yet Israeli’s clandestine attack on Syria’s concealed nuclear facility received virtually no backlash due to Syria’s desire for secrecy about its illegal facility and American and Israeli discretion in releasing information about the event. Iran’s nuclear programme, unlike the Syrian intentions, already commands international attention. An Israeli attack would carry significant regional repercussions as well. Israel is currently conducting well-publicized military exercises in response to the nuclear threat in Iran, yet whether the Jewish nation would attack without an endorsement from the U.S. remains to be seen.
With American attention focused inward on the domestic issue du jour, developing threats abroad can easily escape public notice until a full-blown conflict erupts. With Iran, American can’t afford disinterested inaction. One thing is certain: despite the regional instability certain to result from military action with Iran, America doesn’t have time to waste in dismantling the Iranian nuclear program. To allow a nuclear weapon in the hands of the resolutely anti-American country backing terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah—dedicated to ‘wiping Israel off the map’—would be virtually ensuring a nuclear catastrophe.