One of the most anticipated speeches of the United Nations General Assembly was delivered on Sept. 26, 2012 perhaps coincidentally on Yom Kippur by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran (transcript of his speech here and video here). While he referred to Israel as uncivilized Zionists and suggested that the United States and other Western powers have entrusted themselves to the Devil, much of the media characterized his speech as subdued and tame.
There is little doubt internationally that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons capabilities. There are numerous reports from the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency and other organizations that suggest this. Yet, with the exception of an excellent article in USA Today, little press attention has been paid to the threat Iran poses to the United States and the rest of the world. It is vital that the context of the Iranian threat be provided. Media that take the easy route and make this a story about Israeli saber-rattling fail to inform their audiences of the profound implications of an Iran with nuclear weapons capability.
What would a nuclear-cable Iran mean for America?
If Iran attains nuclear weapons capability, neighboring nations like Saudi Arabia, other Persian Gulf States, Turkey and Egypt could either acquiesce to Iranian preeminence or compete by acquiring nuclear weapons of their own. The existing nuclear non-proliferation regime would be eviscerated given that Iran, as a signatory, ostensibly is bound to limitations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. (It's important to note that Israel neither has signed the NPT nor threatened any of its neighbors with annihilation.)
Thousands of American military personnel are currently based in the Persian Gulf or serving in Afghanistan. There, they are within range of Iranian missiles. According to United Against Nuclear Iran, retired Director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency Lt. General Henry Obering said, "I personally believe, based on what I've seen, that right now Iran has the ability to reach most of Europe. And they just haven't demonstrated it yet. If Iran develops nuclear weapons, the threat posed by their inventory of ballistic missiles will increase exponentially."
Iran is working with drug cartels in Mexico, South and Central America as well as establishing government-sanctioned bases of operations in Nicaragua and Venezuela. Some reports assert that operatives at these bases are preparing for possible attacks against U.S. targets. A nuclear-armed Iran could either provide an umbrella for such operations or make them much more destructive.
It would not be necessary for a nuclear Iran to transfer a bomb and delivery system to its terrorist allies and proxies, only nuclear material sufficient for a so-called dirty bomb. Iran via its Islamic Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah is believed to have been behind the infamous 1994 attack on the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the recent tourist bus bombing in Bulgaria, the deadly 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers, the truck bombing of the American military barracks in Beirut which killed 241 American soldiers and marines, and numerous other terrorist attacks. Tehran's possession of nuclear weapons might further "shield" such attackers and/or greatly intensify their power.
The Strait of Hormuz is the only sea passage from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean. At its narrowest, the strait is 21 nautical miles (39 km) wide and roughly 20 percent of the world's oil passes through it.
In assessing Iran's capabilities to close the Strait, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey said on Jan. 8, 2012, that:
[The Iranians have] invested in capabilities that could, in fact, for a period of time block the Straits of Hormuz. We've invested in capabilities to ensure that, if that happens, we can defeat that. And so the simple answer is, yes, they can block it.
That is true for a non-nuclear Iran. An Iran with nuclear weapons capability could close the Strait of Hormuz and the question would be, Will the United States take on a nuclear-capable Iran? If not, Iran could hold hostage one of the most critical passageways for global oil transport. The price of oil would go up and the American economy runs on oil.
Virtually all of our goods are moved by truck at some point in the chain of delivery. This means that everything would become more expensive in the event of closure of the strait. It would cost more, perhaps considerably more, for Americans to fill their gas tanks or heat their homes in the winter. People would have less disposable income, companies would have less to invest and economic activity would be depressed.
American Interests and Values
Iran's Islamic revolutionary government does not recognize any of the rights we celebrate as Americans.
According to the United Nations, Iran persecutes minorities and human rights defenders, in particular women's rights activists, journalists and Government opponents. In the wake of the disputed 2009 elections, persecution of journalists was widespread. According to Reporters without Borders:
- At least 170 journalists and bloggers, including 32 women, were arrested, 22 of them sentenced to jail terms totalling 135 years.
- More than 100 journalists were forced to flee the country.
- 23 newspapers were shut down and thousands of web pages blocked.
- Iran is one of the world's four biggest prisons for the media, alongside Cuba, Eritrea and North Korea.
Citizens are subject to torture, arbitrary detentions and unfair trials, according to the United Nations, and there is increasing application of the death penalty, including in cases involving political opponents and juvenile offenders. Homosexuality is a crime in Iran, punishable by death.
Iran is a Threat to Us
Perhaps Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said it best in his speech (transcript here and video here):
Given this record of Iranian aggression without nuclear weapons, just imagine Iranian aggression with nuclear weapons. Imagine their long range missiles tipped with nuclear warheads, their terror networks armed with atomic bombs.
Who among you would feel safe in the Middle East? Who would be safe in Europe? Who would be safe in America? Who would be safe anywhere?
To view a trailer for Iranium, a documentary that explores the issue, click here.
To view the full length film, click here.