War With Iran: If Iran Tries to Get the Bomb, the U.S. Should Work Through the UN

According to a U.N. report released last Wednesday, Iran is moving forward with the construction of a nuclear reactor, which some experts say could eventually produce plutonium for a nuclear weapon.

While nuclear power plants generate nearly 20% of the energy used in the United States, and nearly 80% in France, the dominant Western view about nuclear energy in Iran is that its output should be zero, and this view, I believe, is right. At this stage, however, the U.S. should not engage with Iran, nor should it draw a line in the sand. It should operate through the U.N. 

Iran maintains that the purpose of its nuclear program is peaceful and is only to generate energy, but Western countries see this as a front for a dangerous weapons program, which might one day offer the means to wipe Israel “off the map,” as Iranian president Ahmadinejad said.

The U.S. should not draw a line in the sand. These sort of remarks should be avoided because, when they are not backed up by action, they cause other countries to take our position less seriously. Last month, for example, when Obama was talking about the conflict in Syria, he said, “a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around.” But later, after the American intelligence community indicated that Syria had in fact used chemical weapons, and no action was taken, Obama’s words lost some heft

In order to avoid this sort of problem, and also to prevent the U.S. from sinking billions of dollars and hundreds of American lives in preemptive action, the U.S. should operate through the U.N. This would allow the U.S. to limit the resources it would need to sink in preventing the nuclear Iran threat, since any action would be multilateral. What’s more, it would also allow the U.S. to begin to disabuse itself of its role as the sole world police force and allow other countries to share that burden.

On Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry said that it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon and added that “every month that goes by gets more dangerous.” These statements are surely correct, but despite this danger, we should not act unilaterally and make Americans the only payers of the world’s security bill.