Confessions of a Hoosier Democrat

Blogging Indiana Politics and the 2008 Presidential Race.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Evan Bayh on Iran

February 12, 2006

My View: Evan Bayh

Time to take hard line on Iran's regime

For 13 days in October of 1962, America was confronted with a hostile and aggressive nation attempting to place nuclear weapons a mere 90 miles from our shore. During that time, the so-called doomsday clock -- the world's indicator for impending nuclear war -- was the nearest it has ever been to midnight. The world now finds itself nearing a similar situation with the radical mullahs of Iran seeking to obtain nuclear weapons.

Fortunately for the United States and the world, the Kennedy administration reacted promptly and forcefully, using every means possible short of military force, while keeping the use of such force on the table, to resolve the situation peacefully. We need that same foresight, resolve and decisiveness today to avoid the unacceptable choice of using military force or accepting a nuclear Iran.

Unfortunately, those exact characteristics have been conspicuously absent from the Bush administration's Iran policy. Their approach has certainly been damaging to our national security. It is good that Iran's case is being sent to the United Nations Security Council, but there is no guarantee the council will do any more than it did when North Korea's case was sent to the world body three years ago. That is, nothing.

Iran has called for the destruction of Israel; its president has asked the Iranian people to envision a world without the United States and Israel; the regime fosters terrorism across the world and is actively supporting groups hostile to the United States. It is working on technology capable of delivering missiles long distances. And now it has resumed pernicious nuclear activities that present the gravest threat to the United States in decades.

If we had marshaled world opinion in 2002, we would not be here today. We have wasted valuable time, diverted resources, and ignored this problem at our peril. No one wants to forestall the need to use military force more than I do. But if we are to do so, we must act now. Time is of the essence.

First, the administration should focus on convincing the U.N. Security Council to actually take up Iran's case and to put in place strong, multi-national economic, political and diplomatic sanctions against Iran when it meets in March. If politics thwart U.N. action, it may be appropriate to look at other forums, such as NATO, to take hard steps against the clerics in Iran. We cannot afford to wait. The Iranian government must understand that if its nuclear activity continues, it will be treated as a pariah state. We must lead this charge.

Second, supplies of refined gasoline to Iran should be cut off. Iran may be one of the world's largest exporters of oil, but it does not have the refining capacity to make the gasoline necessary to make its economy run. Iran currently imports 40 percent of its refined gasoline from abroad.

Finally, Iran must be isolated diplomatically, financially and culturally. Their delegations should no longer be welcomed in countries around the world. Iranian assets should be frozen and financial and banking ties severed. Travel to and from Iran should be cut off and international flights should not be allowed to land or originate from Iran. Iran should also be banned from world events like soccer's World Cup and the Olympics.

We should be clear; our adversaries are not the Iranian people. We must make common cause with the Iranian people against a regime that threatens the world's and their people's best interests. Most Iranians are as disillusioned with their government as the rest of the world.

We should expect repercussions and retaliation from Iran, which will be exacerbated because of the administration's delay, but the downside of doing nothing will be far worse. Iran has threatened to suspend its oil exports. It may well. But it would be doing grave damage to its own economy. Oil exports keep the Iranian economy afloat. How long could the regime sustain itself without oil revenues? Not long.

No doubt Tehran would use its terrorism surrogates. They may strike our embassies and step up activities across the globe, but we cannot be bullied into allowing such a regime to have nuclear weapons. Just imagine what kind of blackmail Iran could exert on the world then.

The opportunity we have to avoid the choice between military action and a nuclear-capable Iran may be fast approaching. It's up to all of us -- Democrats and Republicans -- to make sure we don't learn what could have happened with different leadership in October of 1962.

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