NEAR EAST REPORT AIPAC'S BIWEEKLY ON AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY

Editorial: A Nuclear Iran Threatens America

A nuclear-capable Iran would be a grave threat to American national security. Backed by an atomic bomb, the Islamic Republic could become even more belligerent and dangerous, jeopardizing our interests around the globe as well as the values we cherish.

A nuclear-capable Iran would affect the United States and its allies in numerous ways. Tehran would be able to manipulate the cost of oil by coercing other oil-exporting nations to reduce their crude production. This could cause gas prices to skyrocket, sending shockwaves through the world economy. While increased gas prices will surely impact everyday Americans at the pump, the cost of gas also influences the price of everything from food to construction—potentially stifling our economic recovery.

A nuclear-capable Iran would pose a direct threat to U.S. soldiers stationed in the Middle East. The Islamic Republic already has all U.S. bases in the region within the range of its growing missile arsenal, and it has proven willing to target U.S. troops by providing weapons and funding to groups fighting our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. As an emboldened regional power, a nuclear-capable Iran would feel it can dramatically increase its support to such groups.

The terrorist threat from Iran is not limited, of course, to American troops in the Middle East. Described by the State Department as the world’s “most active state sponsor of terrorism,” the Islamic Republic has backed terrorist groups like Hizballah and Hamas, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans. Iran’s actions over the past year, including a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington and failed attempts to kill diplomats in India, Thailand and Georgia, point to a growing aggressiveness on Tehran’s part in sponsoring terrorism against the United States and its allies.

This aggressiveness would go unchallenged if Iran were to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Terrorist groups would be able to act with impunity under an Iranian nuclear umbrella. And Tehran would be able to provide nuclear materials and knowledge to its terrorist proxies as well as its allies in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia, bringing the threat of nuclear terror close to America’s shores.

Allowing Iran to develop a nuclear weapons capability would irreparably undermine nuclear nonproliferation efforts. Viewing Iran as a potential threat, Mideast countries would feel compelled to build their own nuclear deterrence against the Islamic Republic. Indeed, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have already hinted they would seek to acquire their own nuclear capability in response to Iran going nuclear. Thus, the most volatile region on earth, with a rising Islamist influence, would become home to a nuclear arms race.

Besides constituting a military threat, a nuclear-capable Iran would endanger America’s position of leadership in the Middle East and its sway around the world. Under pressure from Tehran, Arab countries would be reluctant to cooperate with the United States in advancing regional peace and stability. America would be weaker and our influence would diminish as Iran’s would soar.

The Islamic Republic has pursued policies that conflict directly with U.S. interests in several areas and suggest that the country does not desire to become a constructive member of the international community. Through its support of terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hizballah, Iran has been a major obstacle to peace efforts in the Middle East, and its interference in the affairs of its Arab neighbors undermines regional peace and stability.

Emboldened by its success in overcoming U.S. opposition and international pressure, a nuclear-capable Iran would be in a position to further challenge American values, interests and concerns. The Islamic Republic would be able to ratchet up its belligerence, continuing to ignore the demands of the international community without paying any price. It is therefore essential that the United States lead the effort to prevent one of the most dangerous countries in the world from having the most lethal weapon known to man.

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