On Iran, sanctions are not the answer
America is in a race to stop Iran from making the world's most dangerous weapons, and we are losing

/JC McIlwaine/UN Photo

Mohammad Khazaee, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the UN, addresses a Security Council meeting at which the Council adopted resolution 1929 (2010), imposing new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear enrichment activities.

Article Highlights

  • The US is losing the race to stop #Iran from making the world's most dangerous weapons @AmbJohnBolton

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  • Sanctions have long been touted as the answer to a nuclear #Iran, but they are not

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  • The world's central bank of terrorism will very soon become a nuclear weapons state

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Sadly, we have been behind the curve for years, and recent Obama administration claims about slowing Tehran down are little more than re-election propaganda. President Obama is still naively fixed on diplomacy with Iran, though it is laughable to believe our smooth-talking negotiators will chitchat Iran out of its nuclear ambitions. If Iran returns to talks, what is the compromise between our insistence that Iran cannot have nukes and Iran's determination to get them? That Iran gets to keep a small nuclear weapons program?

Sanctions have long been touted as the answer, but they are not. Iran has enough friends (Russia and China, plus Cuba, Venezuela and others on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent Latin jaunt) to withstand them. North Korea, the world's most heavily sanctioned country, with a population perennially near starvation, has exploded two nuclear devices. Nonetheless, both the Obama and Bush administrations sought negotiations with Pyongyang's criminal regime, an unfortunate tutorial for Tehran's mullahs.

"Obama's Plan B, containing a nuclear Iran, is dangerously misguided."--John R. Bolton

Nor have assassinations, sabotage or the Stuxnet computer virus materially damaged Iran's program. While politicians claim these measures show they are "doing something" about Iran, objectively they simply enable its steady, clandestine progress. They are diversions masquerading as solutions.

Obama's Plan B, containing a nuclear Iran, is dangerously misguided. The mullahs do not buy our theories of deterrence. Even if they did, the nuclear threat doesn't stop in Tehran. Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt, among others, will seek nuclear weapons if Iran succeeds, and a multipolar nuclear Middle East simply awaits the first match.

The most likely outcome is stark: The world's central banker of terrorism will very soon become a nuclear weapons state. The only other option is to take pre-emptive military action to break Iran's program, and the odds of doing so successfully are deteriorating daily, as it hardens and deeply buries new facilities.

Indeed, faced with a weak, ineffective Obama, Iran's smartest strategy is to accelerate its work, finishing the job before his potential defeat this November. Obama's irresolution and inaction could well make a nuclear Iran his most lasting legacy.

John R. Bolton is a senior fellow at AEI

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John R.
Bolton
  • John R. Bolton, a diplomat and a lawyer, has spent many years in public service. From August 2005 to December 2006, he served as the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations. From 2001 to 2005, he was under secretary of state for arms control and international security. At AEI, Ambassador Bolton's area of research is U.S. foreign and national security policy.

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