We know the world changed on 9/11, but we didn't think it would change again so soon. With the news that Iran is literally weeks away from becoming a nuclear power, the game has changed once again.
A little over 5 years ago during an interview on Meet the Press, the late Tim Russert asked me what was the greatest threat to American security. We had been at war in Afghanistan for nearly five years and at war in Iraq for over three. Thousands of our bravest had already given what Lincoln poignantly described as the “last full measure of devotion.”
Yet there I sat, making the case Iran poses the greatest threat to our security.
I said ‘Iran’ because they have been at war with America since 1979. Iran has been a leading funder of Hezbollah – who is the provider of the most deadly weapon used against our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, Improvised Explosive Devices or I.E.D’s – and complicit in the training of al-Qaeda. Most recently, it was uncovered that Iran sought to assassinate the Saudi ambassador on U.S. soil – an unprecedented power play directed at becoming the preeminent Middle East power while at the same time showing complete disdain and disregard for – what they call, “the Great Satan” – America.
The parallels between 1980’s Soviet Union aggression and the aggression of this Iran are shockingly similar: an aggressive, expansionist ideology; projecting regional power and causing military mischief; creating alignments in our hemisphere, including support of militant and terror organizations that can penetrate our homeland.
However, there are almost no parallels between how we dealt with the Soviet Union and how we need to deal with Iran. Reason being, mutually assured destruction worked to keep the cold war cold. Russia was an atheistic enemy who didn’t believe in an afterlife. In this case, history proves self destruction is no deterrent for Iran. In fact, the Islamists ruling Iran view dying for its cause will be rewarded in the afterlife.
There are those in Iran’s ruling elite who use religious theology as justification for building a nuclear weapon. Some even believe that bringing about great worldly chaos that would certainly occur with the destruction of Israel, would usher in the rule of the 12th Imam – or Islamic religious Savior. This week’s report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) now shows that these radical Islamists are on the verge of having a nuclear weapon that could allow them to do just that.
The most tragic part is we could have avoided this escalation.
While in the senate serving on the Armed Services Committee, I warned repeatedly of the threat that a nuclear Iran would be, and urged steps to avoid it becoming one. As the IAEA’s report indicates, my predictions were unfortunately right.
"As President, I would exhaust every diplomatic option before exercising military might, but we cannot take military action against Iran off the table – because a nuclear Iran is gravely dangerous for American security and Israeli survival.""
In 2004, I first authored the Iran Freedom and Support Act (IFSA) – sweeping legislation that funded pro-democracy groups in Iran and imposed real sanctions on this regime aimed at stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program. At first, not a single Democrats nor Republicans would join me. That changed in 2005, as it became evident of Iran’s involvement in killing our troops in the region – and I collected 60 co-sponsors. In 2006, President Bush entered into negotiations with Iran – over my strong objections. I brought IFSA to the floor of the Senate for a vote making it clear to the Iranians that Congress was ready to act if the negotiations were unsuccessful. My bill faced opposition from Joe Biden and President Bush and it was narrowly defeated. A few months later, Iranian negotiations broke down and that very same bill was passed unanimously and signed by President Bush.
While many of the sanctions were implemented, neither President Bush nor President Obama implemented a key aspect of the bill that funded a movement to overthrow the Iranian regime. President Obama actually cut the funds completely and the money intended to support pro-democracy groups in Iran was never provided to them. So, when the Green Revolution erupted in 2009, we were not in good positions to help them – even if we wanted to. And unfortunately, President Obama did not want to help them, and as a result that revolution failed.
President Obama naively and cavalierly once declared Iran as a “tiny country” that did not pose a serious threat. Candidate Obama wanted to negotiate with Iran, just as JFK negotiated with Khrushchev. But just as negotiations with Khrushchev failed, so has Obama’s efforts and his naivety in international diplomacy has led our nation to the brink of a nuclear Iran that neither fears nor respects American power.
More importantly and perhaps to many, more surprisingly, the threat of a nuclear Iran is not just "over there." Reports now show that Iran has been building alliances in our hemisphere with countries like Venezuela, through which it has been funding and supporting terrorist groups like Hezbollah. Iran is literally operating off our shores and borders with partners like Cuba and Brazil, and this country has so far, turned a blind eye to their actions and motives.
To make matters worse, the Obama administration's support of the Start Treaty has limited our ability to build a missile defense system and its political correctness has tied our border security hands behind our backs.
We must move beyond our 9/10 mentality – ignoring clear threats. We must broaden our 9/11 mentality – solely focusing on a shadowing terrorist network thousands of miles away. Instead, we must immediately understand that we are facing a new enemy and entering a new age of international threats to this country and he allies.
The threat is here and it is now. We must work with Israel to determine the proper military response needed to stabilize the region, protect our allies and protect this country – if that includes targeted airstrikes on Iranian nuclear facilities, then I am prepared to authorize that action. In addition, nuclear scientists who stand with Ahmadinejad must know that if they help the regime, they are enemies of the United States and they will be treated as such. In response to this latest revelation outlined in the IAEA’s report, I would work with Israel to eliminate the Iranian nuclear threat immediately and put provisions in place to assist any pro-democracy uprising in the Iran.
As President, I would exhaust every diplomatic option before exercising military might, but we cannot take military action against Iran off the table – because a nuclear Iran is gravely dangerous for American security and Israeli survival. America must again be a leader for peace in the world, and leading against Iran is the most critical place to start. As President, I will commit to do just that.