Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will speak in the coming days at the U.N. General Assembly in New York where he will preach his hatred of the United States, the West and Israel. The backdrop of his speech is the looming likelihood of Iran becoming a nuclear power. The Obama administration, in concert with U.S. allies, must intensify its efforts at the United Nations to bring further sanctions against the theocratic rulers of Tehran to maximize the prospect of a peaceful resolution and to prevent the regional and global destabilization that would come with an Iranian nuclear arsenal.
According to a recent U.N. inspection report, Iran is steadily stockpiling enriched uranium, even in the face of toughened international sanctions. This report raises new worries that Iran's nuclear program cannot be adequately monitored. The International Atomic Energy Agency said that it cannot confirm quantities of certain nuclear materials and has a growing list of unanswered questions about enrichment sites. Iran recently decided to eject two IAEA inspectors.
The Islamic Republic of Iran's record is abhorrent. Iran's support for Hamas and Hezbollah led to two major wars in Lebanon and Gaza in the last four years. Iran sponsors international terrorism, foments conflict throughout the Middle East, ignores its obligations under multilateral treaties, undermines the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, interferes in Iraqi and Lebanese politics, suppresses the human rights of its own citizens, aids anti-U.S. fighters in Afghanistan (Iran is paying Taliban fighters $1,000 for each American soldier they kill) and threatens U.S. allies in the region. An emboldened nuclear-armed Iran would make matters much worse, creating a nuclear umbrella under which Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorists will feel free to act with impunity. Such a state of affairs could end up in a major regional conflict.
The prospect of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons and obtaining the ability to launch missiles against countries throughout the Middle East, and even Europe, should alarm every American. Iran-sponsored terror networks, particularly Hezbollah, have a long history of targeting Americans and U.S. interests. In 1983, with Iranian support, Hezbollah killed 241 Marines as they slept in their barracks in Lebanon. Furthermore, Argentine prosecutors have accused Iran for the bombings in Buenos Aires of the Israeli Embassy (1992), which killed 29 people, and the Jewish Community Center (1994), which killed 85 people.
While openly denying the reality of the Holocaust, Iran's leaders repeatedly threaten to destroy Israel, a U.N. member state, while building nuclear weapons to make this possible. Arab states, too, are also warning that Iranian nuclear ambitions will provoke a regional nuclear arms race, and destabilize global security.
For me, this is a personal matter. My large extended family lives in Rehovot in Israel's densely populated center. Iranian-supplied missiles fired from either Lebanon or Gaza now put my family directly in the sights of Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists.
The Obama administration must use all diplomatic and economic means necessary to deter Iran from continuing its quest for nuclear weapons. Sanctions are intended to target the Iranian regime, particularly the energy sector, not the Iranian people. For the sake of regional stability and a successful Middle East peace process, Iran's nuclear weapons program must be stopped cold. The consequences are too dire to contemplate.
Ruvim Braude is president of the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Relations Council. A native of Russia, he immigrated to the United States as a political refugee in 1979 and moved to the Bay Area in 1985.