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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Altered Consciousness: Focusing our interest on Iran

Published: December 9, 2011
Section: Opinions

Three recent events have underscored the severity of the Iranian threat.

Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency released a report that provided copious amounts of evidence supporting the conclusion that Iran has been working to develop a nuclear weapon since 2003. In blatant violation of international norms, Iran attempted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States and also considered plans to attack the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington, D.C. Also, a week ago, members of the Iranian Basij militia stormed the British embassy in Tehran with tacit support from the Iranian regime, a scene highly reminiscent of the U.S. embassy takeover in 1979.

The danger that Iran poses even without a nuclear weapon to not just Israel but the world at large is indisputable. The apologist case for the Islamist regime there has no merit whatsoever and concerted action on the economic, diplomatic and political fronts short of a full-out military strike—though we should maintain this as a very credible option—must be taken as soon as possible. For these reasons, I have been greatly disappointed by the policy of the Obama administration in regard to the country.

Obama’s decision not to sanction the Iranian Central Bank in favor of U.N. Security Council sanctions that will never be effective without Russia and China is baffling. Recently, the Senate unanimously passed an amendment that would prohibit financial transactions with the bank. The president opposed it on the grounds that it would disrupt world oil markets, despite the fact that the bill allows him to grant waivers to exempt certain organizations from the ban. Regardless, what is more troubling for Obama? A slight increase in gas prices in the short-term or a nuclear Iran that would, among other things, potentially disrupt the crucial shipping lanes along the Persian Gulf, thus driving prices skyward in the long-term?

Obama has also failed to show a commitment toward regime change. In 2009, under the pretext of his ultimately unsuccessful policy to “engage” the Iranian government, he missed a golden opportunity to support the Green Movement both rhetorically, diplomatically, and by providing them with tools to help them communicate with one another and organize. Since then, he has cut funding for democracy promotion programs.

Additionally, Obama’s foreign policy in the Middle East has helped Iran expand its influence throughout the region. Because he is running for re-election next year, he has decided to completely withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq, leaving the country to the tender mercy of its neighbor to the East. Obama’s alternate policy of stationing additional troops in Kuwait is an inadequate substitute. Furthermore, Iran may be able to bolster its influence in Afghanistan once American troops withdraw from there as well.

Obama has not maintained intense diplomatic pressure on the Assad regime in Syria, which is Iran’s closest ally in the region and access point to the Mediterranean Sea. He has also done little to weaken Iran’s proxies Hamas and Hezbollah. In regards to the former, he supported the loosening of the Israeli embargo on it and has called for the creation of a Palestinian state that, under current conditions, would probably be taken over by Hamas very quickly, like what happened in Gaza a few years ago. On Hezbollah, as far as I know, he has failed really to do anything as the group has more or less dominated Lebanon.

In regards to the Arab uprisings in general, Obama has taken a sympathetic stance toward Islamist forces by, for instance, recognizing and legitimizing the Muslim Brotherhood and supporting openly Islamist rebels in Libya. The Sunni-Shiite and Arab-Persian divides would drive Islamists in countries like Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia apart from Iran. Nonetheless, if given the ability to formulate their respective countries’ foreign policies, as they almost definitely will, they would be far friendlier toward Iran than leaders such as Hosni Mubarak were. Iran is a menace to the entire world yet, judging by the evidence, our president does not seem to agree, despite what his rhetoric suggests.