Sanctions only viable option to combat Iran’s nuclear program

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by Jake Baum

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“Opportunity, prosperity and justice”: President Barack Obama used these words in 2009 to describe his hopes for the future of the Iranian government’s attitude toward its people.

However, the reality that Obama envisioned is far from the truth. Many political groups throughout America, Israel and Iran have speculated on potential deals between the parties at hand in a “non-proliferation treaty,” an international agreement that would limit Iranian enrichment of uranium in exchange for certain concessions, which have yet to be determined. However, an adequate, effective and efficient solution for all parties involved has yet to emerge.

The Sadat Forum on the Iran Nuclear Issue took place March 3. Shibley Telhami, the Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at this university, moderated the event. Serving on the panel were Thomas Pickering, a past U.S. ambassador to countries such as Israel, India and Russia; Jessica Matthews, former president of the Carnegie Endowment Fund for International Peace and Suzanne Maloney, a former U.S. adviser of the State Department on Iran.

Panelists (left to right) Shibley Telhami, Jessica Tuchman Mathews, Thomas R. Pickering and Suzanne Maloney discuss the Iran nuclear issue. Photo by the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences.
Panelists (left to right) Shibley Telhami, Jessica Tuchman Mathews, Thomas R. Pickering and Suzanne Maloney discuss the Iran nuclear issue. Photo by the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences.

The event was presented by the Program for Public Consultation. The first speaker, Steve Coll, dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, presented the most recent public opinion poll on Iran.

The results of the poll were anything but surprising. In fact, most Americans had not even heard of the “non-proliferation treaty” in regards to Iran. Most Americans were against sanctions and in favor of a “long-term agreement” in which America would exchange a lightening of sanctions for further inspection into Iran’s nuclear program.

The panelists discussed the imminence of the issue itself, the difference between “a deal” (the willingness to negotiate at all) and “the deal” (the actual details of the treaty at hand) – the specifics of the negotiations, the available alternatives and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s involvement in the negotiations.

Is the issue really imminent this time? In 2009, Obama vowed his dedication to the issue and finding an appropriate solution. But six years later, an efficient deal is still in the works. March 24 is the deadline for a deal, but with so many parties  involved in the deal, it becomes more difficult to actually form a fair one.

Even though the American public was divided across partisan lines about whether or not Netanyahu’s speech was appropriate, most agreed that the Democratic boycott of his speech was unacceptable, and I could not agree more. The problem is that Republican members of Congress may have violated the Logan Act in sending a letter to the Iranian government. However, does that really matter when eight million lives, the population of Israel and far more (possibly the entire population of the Middle East) are at stake?

As the Middle Eastern country most closely affiliated with Western powers, Israel will be a high priority target of Iran’s nuclear program given an imminent weapon. Netanyahu’s involvement in the issue is not only appropriate, but necessary. The lives of his people are at stake, and no one can blame him for wanting to save lives.

What exactly are the alternatives? The deal currently in progress, a reduction in sanctions in exchange for further inspections, can guarantee no ultimate results – Iran is still close to achieving a bomb, and while the panel’s consensus was that using it would be un-strategic and unlikely, no one can be sure.

Netanyahu’s alternative, the strengthening of sanctions, might stop the government’s involvement in enrichment. The nuclear black market is strong, but the deal currently in the works is not sustainable. According to Iran Watch, an organization dedicated to “tracking Iran’s unconventional weapon capabilities,” the Iranian government currently possesses enough operating centrifuges and unenriched uranium to produce a bomb within a month, essentially rendering the deal itself useless.

Even if the government is forced to shut down a certain amount of centrifuges, its refusal to explain the reason for their use and the government’s failure to reveal so many illegal enrichment facilities in the past leave the possibility of an impending bomb open very soon even on top of the deal in progress.

So what can be done? I say sanctions are the answer. There is no optimal solution that the U.S. can find, and with each passing day, the Iranian nuclear program only gets stronger. But increasing sanctions are a great start. With enough sanctions in place, even the nuclear black market would most likely collapse, rendering Iran’s nuclear program unsustainable, and (hopefully) push the government to finally put down its weapons and save its people from economic turmoil.

Jake is a freshman international business major. He can be reached at jakebaum1@gmail.com.

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