Iran is on the verge of obtaining a nuclear weapon. Even The New York Times editorial board now acknowledges this. And the Grey Lady is right to speculate that “no mix of sanctions and inducements can wean Tehran of its nuclear ambitions.” A military strike probably won’t do the job either. Iran’s leaders will do whatever it takes to obtain a nuclear weapon. And regime change is the only way to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear state.
After Gadhafi’s fall in Libya, the Iranian mullahs will never voluntarily end their nuclear program. The United States and the world community embraced Gadhafi after he relinquished his WMD program in 2003. But Gadhafi’s decision to abandon his WMD program, and his lack of nuclear weapons, were his undoing. NATO would never have used military force against a nuclear Gadhafi.
Iran’s leaders had already witnessed the impunity with which North Korea operated after obtaining a nuclear weapon. And Gadhafi’s death sent a clear message to dictators around the world: only a nuclear weapon can protect you from Western military intervention. And as the IAEA recently noted, Iran is on the verge of producing a weapon and becoming immune to any Western action.
A nuclear Iran would be an immediate danger to America and the world. Iran would be emboldened to continue its support for terrorist activities throughout the Middle East. It would use its nuclear status to gain greater leverage in the region and support and fund attacks against America and our allies with impunity. A nuclear Iran could also lead to an arms race across the Middle East or the spread of nuclear technology to other rogue regimes.
And most terrifying of all, it could lead to a nuclear weapon being stolen by or given to a terrorist group, where it could eventually find its way to the shores of America or one of our allies.
On top of these dangers, a nuclear-armed Iran would make the United States and the United Nations look impotent in the eyes of terrorists and dictatorial regimes. World leaders have endlessly promised that Iran would not be allowed to produce a nuclear weapon. But these leaders have done almost nothing to stop Iran from doing so.
If Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, it will send a clear message that America is all bark and no bite, and that America won’t take bold action to confront its enemies. Something similar happened when our Marine barracks were bombed in Lebanon during the 1980s. A young man named Osama bin Laden watched us retreat and believed that the United States could be cowed by terrorism. Thirty years later, bin Laden brought us the September 11 attacks and an endless parade of horribles.
What, then, are the options for preventing a nuclear-armed Iran? The two proposals discussed ad nauseum are sanctions and military action. Both of these approaches have significant problems and are probably unrealistic. What we really need is regime change in Iran.