“With God’s help the countdown button for the destruction of the Zionist regime has been pushed … by God’s will, we will witness the destruction of this regime in the near future.”
— Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Words like these on the topic of the destruction of Israel exemplify the dire threat that Iran poses to peace in the Middle East and to international security. Through its pursuit of nuclear weapons and its funding and training of terrorist organizations, Iran has jeopardized what little political stability exists in the Middle East. As concluded by the U.S. State Department in April, Iran is the world’s most prominent state sponsor of terrorism. Moreover, Iran not only supports terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, but also directly funds militants who attack U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the United States presidential election only a few days away and Iran reportedly months away from acquiring nuclear weapons, it is imperative that we understand each candidate’s plans to keep our citizens and allies secure.

Both candidates agree that a nuclear-armed Iran is not an option. John McCain has plans to levy “severe sanctions on Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons technology.” Although McCain believes that all diplomatic and economic measures must first be exhausted, he does support military action as a last resort because “there’s only one thing worse than military action against Iran and that is a nuclear-armed Iran.”

This strategy could prove to be advantageous because the threat of military force would strengthen the economic sanctions already in place and could push Iran’s leadership to dismantle the country’s nuclear program. McCain’s plans also raise significant concerns, considering that we already have our armed forces stretched thin in two countries and aren’t completely sure what Iran’s military capabilities are.

Although Barack Obama shares the same concern over the Iranian nuclear threat, he believes that we are far from “exhausting our non-military options in confronting this threat.” Obama promotes “tough, direct presidential diplomacy” to pressure Iran to dismantle its nuclear program, offering positive incentives for Iran’s compliance like membership in the World Trade Organization and diplomatic threats of increased economic sanctions and political isolation if Iran maintains its current course.

Obama’s strategy of reaching out to Iran could lead to a positive response from Iran’s leadership, making it clear that they would have much to gain by ending their pursuit of nuclear arms. His strategy could also backfire as direct presidential negotiations with Iran could legitimize a regime that has issued many threats against the United States and the West and fail to produce any concessions.

If Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, the lives of our troops abroad as well as citizens of our closest allies would be in grave danger. The balance of power would significantly change and a nuclear arms race could develop among Iran’s neighbors. The vast resources from oil production in the region would be used to develop nuclear weapons, further destabilizing an already volatile region. We must act to eliminate these dangerous possibilities before they become reality.

To learn more about the Iranian nuclear threat and the candidates’ policies on Iran, please come to Dr. Patrick Clawson’s keynote lecture titled “Will Iran Be The Next Iraq: What Will the Next President Do, and Will It Work?” The event will take place tomorrow at 7 p.m. in Angell Hall Aud. D.

Mindy Welford and Stephanie Berman are members of the American Movement for Israel. Dan Neumann and Daniel Maughan are Executive Board members of the American Movement for Israel.

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