Time Is Not on Our Side in Meeting Iran Threat

Time is not on our side in trying to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

A nuclear-armed Iran not only would threaten Israel’s very existence, it would destabilize the entire region and pose a direct threat to the national security and interests of the United States.

These threats are not theoretical. They stem directly from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who not only has repeatedly threatened to wipe Israel off the face of the map, he has promised the same fate for the United States.

Yet the longer our efforts focus on establishing a dialogue with the Iranian Islamic republic, the easier it is for Iran to attain its nuclear weapons goals. Talk is fine if it is premised in achieving realistic goals, but the Iranian regime has used past efforts at negotiation to delay and divide efforts by the United States and our allies to turn Tehran away from nuclear enrichment programs that clearly could be used for nuclear bombs.

In fact, when asked about Iranian uranium enrichment efforts, Adm. Mike Mullen, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, publicly said recently that Tehran already has enough nuclear material on hand to build at least one weapon. And, because of missile imports from North Korea and its own missile development efforts, Iran has the means to deliver such a weapon.

When President Obama last week offered increased dialogue and a better relationship with Iran, what was Tehran’s reaction? Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the world cannot block “the path of Iran’s nuclear progress.”

Fortunately, President Obama on March 12 announced he was extending existing U.S. sanctions against Iran for one year. A number of factors suggest that now is a good time to not only extend current sanctions on Iran but to increase them.

First, with the price of crude oil at about one-third of last year’s record, Iranian oil revenues have dropped dramatically.

Second, while Iran is the world’s fourth-largest crude oil producer, because of limited Iranian refining capacity, Iran has to import gasoline to meet its domestic demand.

Third, one-third of Iran’s people are not ethnic Persians and have been chafing under Tehran’s authoritarian regime.

Fourth, there is also considerable unrest among some of Iran’s young people, who also are resisting the rigid and oppressive policies of Iranian theocracy.

That is why I am an original co-sponsor of the Iran Threat Reduction Act, H.R. 1208. This important bill would not only extend current U.S. sanctions until the president certifies Iran has dismantled its weapons of mass destruction program and ceased its support for international terrorism, it would significantly increase U.S. pressure on Tehran to do both.

The bill would sharply increase U.S. efforts to stop the shipment of refined petroleum and natural gas products to Iran, as well as materials needed for building or maintaining oil and gas pipelines. Also, the bill completely prohibits U.S. importation of most Iranian products. It also denies U.S. foreign tax credits to Americans engaged in business activity with Iran that is prohibited by U.S. law.

March 17 marked the 17th anniversary of the bombing by Iranian proxies of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29 and wounded 242. It is but one of hundreds of attacks Iran has made against Israel and the United States in a war Iran seems committed to continue.

Without direct Iranian support, Tehran’s proxies, Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, would be far less formidable foes for Israel. Without Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Iranian weapons, the United States would have suffered hundreds of fewer casualties in Iraq.

The United States should increase the pressure on Iran to end its war upon us and our ally Israel once and for all. Quick passage of the Iran Threat Reduction Act would be an important step in that direction.

Republican Rep. Elton Gallegly represents Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in Congress and is a senior member of both the House Foreign Affairs and Intelligence committees.