Iran's nuclear program is back in the news. The BBC reported President Obama's recent statement that, "No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons" and said Iran had the right to peaceful nuclear power." According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, Iranian President Ahmadinejad declared that his country is a nuclear power. "At a conference of families of shahids (martyrs) in Qazvin, northern Iran, Ahmadinejad said that "as a major power, Iran is playing a leading role in the global decision-making process." He said that Iran is "the final victor in all topics on the agenda," and that as long as the Iranian nation obeys Islam and Islamic religious law, it will accomplish its goals....
During his April 2009 visit to China, Ahmadinejad's vice president Parviz Davoudi reiterated Ahmadinejad's statements, saying that in his estimation, "the U.S. is coming to terms with Iran being nuclear, since it already came to terms with Iran's nuclearization process...." But what if Iran's nuclear program does not stop with just producing electricity?
The Heritage Foundation recently published an in-depth study of the Iranian nuclear threat and what the United States should do the "Day After" Iran goes nuclear. Iran currently has the "largest ballistic missile arsenal in the Middle East," and they have the capability of reaching US bases, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, and in increasing number of US allies in the region with those missiles. The situation is exacerbated as Iran test fires its missiles in the face of Obama's offer for improved relations. Iran's utter disregard for "getting along" with the West is clear, and makes them that much more of a threat as they get closer to going nuclear.
According to the report, Iran which has pursued policies hostile to the United States since its founding in 1979, is now on the brink of attaining nuclear weapons capability. U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair testified before Congress on March 10 that "We assess Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons." Although it is not clear exactly when Iran will realize this goal, Blair also testified that "We judge Iran probably would be technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) for a weapon sometime during the 2010-2015 timeframe." While estimates vary, it is clear that the world's foremost sponsor of terrorism soon will be able to build one of the world's most terrifying weapons.
What happens next? The answer is that the U.S. should not wait to find out. Rather, it should immediately put in place the foundations of a strategy to dissuade Tehran from attaining a nuclear weapon through adroit diplomacy, disarm it through military force, or establish a robust framework of augmented deterrence to mitigate the threat posed by a nuclear Iran. Washington must take stronger actions now to prevent a future disaster from unfolding. After all, the U.S. will be dealing not just with a nuclear Iran, but with a potential cascade of nuclear powers in the Middle East.