Iran continues to defy the international community in its drive to acquire nuclear weapons. Arab leaders in the region rightly fear a nuclear-armed Iran. We suspected this before, but now we know for sure because of leaked diplomatic cables. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia "frequently exhorted the U.S. to attack Iran to put an end to its nuclear weapons program," according to these communications. Officials from Jordan said the Iranian nuclear program should be stopped by any means necessary. Officials from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt saw Iran as evil, an "existential threat" and a sponsor of terrorism. If Iran isn’t stopped from obtaining nuclear weapons, it could trigger a regional nuclear arms race in which these countries would seek their own nuclear weapons to protect themselves.
That wouldn’t be the only catastrophic consequence for American interests in the Middle East. Our credibility and reputation would suffer a serious blow if Iran succeeds in producing its own nuclear weapons after we’ve been claiming for years that such an event could not and would not be tolerated. A nuclear-armed and violently anti-American Iran would be an enormous threat to us and to our allies. Israel in particular would face the gravest threat to its existence since its creation. Iran’s leaders have repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction, and Iran already possesses missiles that can reach Israel. Once these missiles are armed with nuclear warheads, nothing could stop the mullahs from launching a second Holocaust. It’s only a matter of time before Iran develops missiles that could reach U.S. territory.
Even without nuclear weapons, Iran has provided arms used to kill American soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran is also the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. It has shielded al-Qaeda leaders, including one of Osama bin Laden‘s sons. Imagine how much worse it would be for us if this regime acquired nuclear weapons.
President Obama once said a nuclear-armed Iran would be "unacceptable." Yet, Iran’s nuclear progress still continues unchecked. Russia continues to support Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactors. It also continues to sell arms to Iran — despite the Obama administration’s much-touted "reset" policy with Russia. The administration trumpets the United Nations sanctions passed earlier this year, but those sanctions are not the " crippling" ones we were promised. Much more can be done, such as banning insurance for shipments to Iran, banning all military sales to Iran, ending all trade credits, banning all financial dealings with Iranian banks, limiting Iran’s access to international capital markets and banking services, closing air space and waters to Iran’s national air and shipping lines, and, especially, ending Iran’s ability to import refined petroleum. These would be truly "crippling" sanctions. They would work if implemented.
Some have said the Israelis should undertake military action on their own if they are convinced the Iranian program is approaching the point of no return. But Iran’s nuclear weapons program is not just Israel’s problem; it is the world’s problem. I agree with the former British prime minister Tony Blair, who said recently that the West must be willing to use force "if necessary" if that is the only alternative.
Standing with the people
But we also need to encourage a positive vision for Iran. Iran is not condemned to live under the totalitarian inheritance of the Ayatollah Khomeini forever. There is an alternative — an Iran where human rights are respected, where women are not subjugated, where terrorist groups are not supported and neighbors are not threatened. A peaceful, democratic Iran should be everyone’s goal. There are many hopeful signs inside Iran that reveal the Iranian people’s desire for this peaceful, democratic future. We must encourage their voices.
When the brave people of Iran take to the streets in defiance of their unelected dictatorship, they must know that we in the free world stand with them. When the women of Iran rise up to demand their rights, they must know that we women of the free world who enjoy the rights won for us by our suffragist foremothers stand with our sisters there. When Iranians demand freedom of religion, freedom of conscience and freedom to simply live their lives as they choose without persecution, we in the free world must stand with them.
We can start by supporting them with diplomacy and things such as radio broadcasting, just as we did with those who suffered under the former Soviet Empire. Most of all, we should support them with confidence in the rightness of the ideals of liberty and justice.
Just as Ronald Reagan once denounced an "evil empire" and looked forward to a time when communism was left on the "ash heap of history," we should look forward to a future where the twisted ideology and aggressive will to dominate of Khomeini and his successors are consigned to history’s dustbin.
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin was the Republican vice presidential candidate in 2008.