Iran on the president’s agenda

The unabated nuclear advancement by Iran means that 2013 must be the year when Tehran reverses course and moves toward a face-saving international agreement.

March 20, 2013 15:23
3 minute read.
Iran President Ahmadinejad unveils long-range UAV

Iranian President Ahmadinejad unveils long-range drone 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Stringer Iran)

When Air Force One touches down in Tel Aviv, there will be many essential issues for US President Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to tackle during the president’s three days in Israel.

The dominating concern trumping all other matters, however, is Iran’s accelerating drive toward a nuclear weapon.

Click here for full JPost coverage of Obama's visit to Israel

The president and the prime minister will make critical decisions together that will largely determine the coordinated American-Israeli plan to eliminate the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.

Over the past four years, diplomatic outreach and the implementation of devastating economic sanctions have largely dominated the discussion of how to immediately respond to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Under the leadership of President Obama, US and world sanctions have virtually halted Iran’s ability to access the international financial system and have decimated the Iranian energy sector – the financial lifeline of the regime’s illicit nuclear program.

The Iranian regime is now losing $5 billion a month, and estimates predict revenues from oil imports could drop another 25 percent in the first quarter of this year. The ultimate goal of these sanctions is to cause enough pain for the Iranian leadership that they are left with no choice but to abandon their nuclear ambitions.

Because this has yet to happen, Obama and Netanyahu must clearly show the Iranian regime that only a diplomatic resolution can prevent the United States and Israel from exercising any necessary option to prevent Iranian nuclear arms and the threat they would pose to Israel, the broader Middle East and the world.

DESPITE SANCTIONS, the Iranian leadership has pressed aggressively forward with their nuclear plans. According to an IAEA report released last month, Iran has started to install advanced centrifuges at Natanz that can enrich uranium two to three times faster than current centrifuges, cutting the time to make a weapon by a third.

The unabated nuclear advancement by Iran means that 2013 must be the year when Tehran reverses course and moves toward a face-saving international agreement. If Iran refuses to respond to the world’s efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to the largest state sponsor of terror and an accomplice to Assad’s slaughter of his people, military action will be the only remaining alternative.

Obama and his administration have consistently stated that the military option remains on the table, and Obama will not allow himself to go down in history as the American leader who allowed Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. The Obama administration has rejected a policy of nuclear containment for Iran because this is a regime whose reckless and destabilizing impact on the Middle East and the world would only be emboldened with a nuclear weapon. Iran already provides training and millions of dollars worth of weapons to Syria; it ships rockets and weapons to terrorist groups in Gaza, and Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, has more than 60,000 rockets pointed at Israel.

This will be the tenth and most important meeting between the president and the prime minister. Obama will sit with Netanyahu in Jerusalem, less than a thousand miles from Tehran. Their level of trust and cooperation will be essential to successfully stopping Iran. Obama will agree to keep the window open for diplomacy even as Congress and our international allies maximize pressure on Tehran.

But Netanyahu will want American assurances that a military strike is an option if diplomacy fails, and he will get it on this trip.

Often, meetings between US presidents and Israeli prime ministers are occasions for dramatic announcements. Success on this trip will be different.

On this trip, the difficult decisions and planning with regard to Iran will not be discussed publicly. The most important decisions made by these two leaders will be behind closed doors.

Tehran will be watching, however. The Iranian regime will be watching this trip closely for signs of division between these leaders on stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions, but they will not find it. What the Iranians will see is the powerful image of Obama and Netanyahu standing shoulder to shoulder, the president of the most powerful nation in the world united with its extraordinary partner and ally, committed to ensuring Israel’s security.

The author represents Florida’s 21st district and is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.

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