In January I was at the Herzliya conference and I discussed the threat of Iran. Since then, Iran continues to operate its nuclear program in defiance of the UN Security Council. It’s expanded its centrifuge operations in Natanz. It’s issued a new banknote that features a red nuclear symbol superimposed on the map of Iran.
Earlier this month, Iran boasted the production of nuclear fuel on an “industrial level” with a goal of installing 50,000 centrifuges. On April 9, Iran marked a new national holiday – “Nuclear Day.” Does the world understand what’s going on here? Do they recognize the threat posed by this nuclear-developing nation?
It’s time to take Ahmadinejad at his word and act accordingly. We are going to continue to work, we’ll work with the UN, we’ll encourage China and Russia to work with us at the UN Security Council.
But the U.S. and Europe can’t afford to wait.
I have proposed a strategy to combat Iran’s nuclear ambition. Let me describe just a few of the elements.
First, we should severely tighten economic sanctions. I think the Bush administration deserves a lot of recognition for restricting access to our banking and credit services, because financial, and credit and monetary penalties are some of the most effective sanctions there are. And we must get other nations to act now to follow our lead.
Second, I think it’s important for us to isolate Iran diplomatically. Its leaders should be made to feel exactly like those of Apartheid South Africa, or worse. That’s why I ordered the state police of Massachusetts to refuse security details for former Iranian president Khatami when he came to Harvard.
Of course, we can communicate and talk with Iran and I support the upcoming efforts to discuss security in Iraq with Iraq’s leaders and their neighbors in the region. But until there are indications that high-level engagement would do anything other than reward bad behavior, I don’t believe we should be engaging Iran in direct, bilateral negotiations over its nuclear weapons program.
Now, there is one place of course where I’d welcome Ahmadinejad with open arms – and that’s in a court where he would stand trial for incitement to genocide, under the terms of the Genocide Convention.
Arab states need to join this effort to prevent a nuclear Iran. These states can do a lot more than just wring their hands and urge America to do all the work. They should support Iraq’s nascent government; they can help America’s focus on Iran quickly by turning down the temperature on the Arab-Israeli conflict; they can stop the financial and weapons flows to Hamas and Hizbullah; and they must tell their Palestinian friends to drop their campaign of terror and recognize Israel’s right to exist.
This one’s a little sensitive, so listen carefully: We have to make it clear to the Iranian people that while nuclear capabilities may be a source of pride, they can also be a source of peril. If nuclear material from Iran falls into the hands of terrorists and is used, it would provoke a devastating response from the entire civilized world to the very nation that supplied it.
There is yet another source of Jihadist nuclear danger, beyond Iran. It’s the pursuit by Jihadists of acquiring what are commonly known as “loose nukes.” The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, which was launched last year, was a good start, but we need to accelerate and expand it.
First, I’d appoint a senior American official to serve as Ambassador-at-Large to Prevent Nuclear Terror. He or she would have the authority and resources to work across agencies and departments in the United States to ensure that our strategies are coordinated here, and abroad.
Further, I’d promote an international initiative to develop a new body of international law that would make nuclear trafficking a crime against humanity, on a par with genocide and war crimes. And by allowing for universal jurisdiction, charges can be brought up at any court, to help prevent traffickers from hiding in complicit or weak countries. Already, people have been caught trying to smuggle nuclear materials to sell them on the black market. Their acts shouldn’t be dismissed with the kind of nonchalance that sometimes accompanies routine violation of the law.