A nuclear-armed Iran challenges United States security on multiple fronts: terrorism, attacks on allies, and U.S. interests in the Middle East. Iran, throughout history, has exhibited anti-U.S. sentiments, opposing U.S. involvement and influence in the Middle East. Beyond its attitudes toward the United States, the Iranian government has been an active supporter of revolutionary ambitions with its neighbors and has been an active sponsor of terrorist organizations like Hezbollah. An Iran with nuclear weapons would pose a significant security risk for the U.S. because the state could easily supply terrorists with the supplies or technology to build and operate their own nuclear arsenal. For this reason, the U.S. must adopt a combination of refocused coercive economic sanctions and non-coercive diplomatic strategies to address Iranian nuclear proliferation.
Currently, the U.S. holds key interests in the Middle East — securing the flow of Persian Gulf oil at reasonable prices and quantities, the protection of Israel, reducing the threat of rouge states, and ensuring the Middle East does not produce terrorist plots. American interests in the Middle East will become difficult to secure and maintain with a nuclear-armed Iran. One of the main concerns is that a nuclear-armed Iran can create an accelerated rivalry and competition for oil between Iran, the U.S., and Russia. A nuclear-armed Iran could complicate current U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan by, as previously mentioned, supporting terrorist organizations in these areas.
The U.S. must keep pushing Iran to re-engage diplomatic discussions. This discussion must produce comprehensive negotiations to eliminate or severely monitor Iranian proliferation. Previous diplomatic measures sought to create preventative measures of proliferation. The U.S. exhausted many efforts before implementing sanctions, requesting multilateral responses, and attempting to curtail the supply side of Iran’s nuclear weaponry attainment. These diplomatic measures have not effectively prevented Iran from seeking nuclear weapons even after they were found in violation of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty.
Refocused economic measures, on the other hand, will continue to put pressure on Iran’s ability to obtain financial and material elements for proliferation. Aggressive economic sanctions will include measures that attempt to curtail Iranian oil consumption by shifting oil needs to Saudi crude. Another significant component will be to continue blacklisting Iranian businesses and firms that operate worldwide through exports and necessitate imports. A key sanction would include freezing Iranian assets beyond those related to Iran’s uranium enrichment practices.
The most advantageous option would be to allow Iran to proliferate under strict United States or United Nations inspections with Iranian guarantees to cooperate in other areas (i.e. stop funding of terrorist organizations, collaboration of Arab-Israeli conflict, etc.). This is the case because Iranian proliferation is inevitable. This approach will not only fulfill the tenets of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, but it will also prevent any military and civilian casualties, it will encourage international cooperation and discussions, and it will encourage Iran to adopt international norms of responsibility.
By refocusing its current strategies to enforce its current economic and diplomatic efforts, the U.S. will address the shortcomings of current strategies dealing with Iranian proliferation, and avoid the potential destabilization of the Middle East.
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